Article Abstract

Surgical management of spinal fractures in ankylosing spondylitis

Authors: Etka Kurucan, David N. Bernstein, Addisu Mesfin


Background: Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rheumatologic condition that affects the axial skeleton. Structural changes render the spine susceptible to fractures, which can be treated operatively or non-operatively. The preferred surgical approach is not well established. The objective of this study is to evaluate trends in the surgical treatment of AS patients with cervical and thoracolumbar spine fractures.
Methods: Using the nationwide inpatient sample (NIS) database, we identified 961 (4,683 weighted) AS patients from 2003 to 2014 who had fusion surgery for vertebral fractures. Our primary outcome was the national trend in use of posterior (PSF), anterior posterior (APSF), and anterior fusion (ASF) surgeries. In addition, we examined patient demographics, complications, institutional characteristics, and hospitalization lengths and costs.
Results: The number of fusions performed in AS patients with fractures increased significantly (P<0.01). The proportion of cervical fractures receiving fusions stayed consistent, whereas that of thoracolumbar fractures increased significantly (P<0.01). Patients undergoing APSF had higher hospitalization lengths in cervical and thoracolumbar fractures (P<0.01). There was significant association between pulmonary complications and cervical fusions (P<0.01).
Conclusions: Surgical treatment has been growing in popularity for thoracolumbar fractures but staying consistent for cervical fractures in AS patients. Surgical approach has shifted for cervical fractures with APSF transitioning from most to least popular approach from 2003 to 2014. For thoracolumbar fractures, PSF has remained the preferred approach. APSF had significantly higher pulmonary complication rates with cervical fractures. This finding can help surgeons in treating fractures in AS patients with underlying pulmonary disease.