Progression of settling with endplate collapse is defined as subsidence.
Subsidence irrespective of the measurement technique or definition does not appear to have an impact on successful fusion and/or clinical outcomes. A validated definition and standard measurement technique for subsidence is needed to determine the actual incidence of subsidence and its impact on radiographic and clinical outcomes 1).
PEEK cages showed a high rate of secondary subsidence (32%) 2).
Titanium Wing cage-augmented ACDF was associated with comparatively good long-term results. Subsidence was present but did not cause clinical complications. Furthermore, radiological studies demonstrated that the physiological alignment of the cervical spine was preserved and a solid bone arthrodesis was present at 2 years after surgery 3).
Mende et al. performed a retrospective analysis of ACDF patients from 2004 to 2010. Numeric analog scale (NAS) score pre-op and post-op, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) on x-rays, endplate (EP) and cage dimensions, implant position, lordotic/kyphotic subsidence patterns (>5°), and cervical alignment were recorded. Subsidence was defined as height loss >40%. Patients were grouped into single segment (SS), double segment (DS), and plated procedures. We included 214 patients. Prevalence of subsidence was 44.9% overall, 40.9% for SS, and 54.8% for DS. Subsidence presented mostly for dorsal (40.7%) and mid-endplate position (46.3%, p < 0.01); dorsal placement resulted in kyphotic (73.7%) and central placement in balanced implant migration (53.3%, p < 0.01). Larger cages (>65% EP) showed less subsidence (64.6 vs. 35.4%, p < 0.01). There was no impact of subsidence on ODI or alignment. NAS was better for subsided implants in SS (p = 0.06). Cages should be placed at the anterior endplate rim in order to reduce the risk of subsidence. Spacers should be adequately sized for the respective segment measuring at least 65% of the segment dimensions. The cage frame should not rest on the vulnerable central endplate. For multilevel surgery, ventral plating may be beneficial regarding construct stability. The reduction of micro-instability or over-distraction may explain lower NAS for subsided implants 4).