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American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, p. 1-7, 2020

DOI: 10.3171/2019.12.spine191011



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Diagnostic accuracy of CT scan–based criteria compared with surgical exploration for the analysis of cervical fusion and nonunion

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Distributing this paper is prohibited by the publisher

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OBJECTIVEComputed tomography (CT) scans are accepted as the imaging standard of reference to define union after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). However, ideal CT criteria to diagnose union have not been identified or validated. The objective of this study was to analyze the diagnostic value of 9 CT-based criteria and identify the ideal criteria among them to assess cervical fusion after ACDF using surgical exploration as the standard of reference.METHODSThe authors performed a retrospective radiographic study of a single surgeon’s prospective assessment of osseous fusion during cervical revision surgery by analyzing complete radiographic data in 44 patients who underwent anterior cervical revision surgery due to symptomatic suspected nonunion or adjacent level disease. All patients received standard preoperative CT scans, which were assessed by an independent radiologist to evaluate 9 diagnostic criteria for osseous union. During revision surgery, scar tissue was removed and manual segmental translation tests were performed. Nonunion was defined by visualized motion at the treated ACDF level.RESULTSIn total, 44 patients were included in the study (30 men; patient age 54 ± 6 years, BMI 28 ± 5 kg/m2). For analysis of fusion, 75 cervical levels were explored, of which 61 levels (81%) showed intraoperative movement indicating nonunion. Statistical analysis showed that of the 9 parameters used to diagnose bone union, “bridging bone on ≥ 3 CT slices” yielded the highest sensitivity (100%) and specificity (58%). Multivariate analysis revealed that prediction accuracy was not increased if several criteria were combined to determine fusion.CONCLUSIONSThe authors found that the best indicator of bone union was the item bridging bone on ≥ 3 CT slices. Combining the scoring of more than one criterion did not increase the diagnostic accuracy.