In 1994, Abumi et al. was the first to introduce screws into the pedicles in the lower cervical spine in order to manage fractures and dislocations, followed by Jeanneret et al. . Later, Abumi and Kaneda reported a large number of patients who underwent transpedicular fixations for the treatment of unstable cervical spine caused by trauma, tumors, infections, degenerative conditions and failed anterior fusions, with a higher fusion rate and no complications except for one patient who developed transient postoperative radiculopathy.
Lateral mass screw fixation with plates or rods has become the standard method of posterior cervical spine fixation and stabilization for a variety of surgical indications. Despite ubiquitous usage, the safety and efficacy of this technique have not yet been established sufficiently to permit “on-label” U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for lateral mass screw fixation systems. The purpose of this study was to describe the safety profile and effectiveness of such systems when used in stabilizing the posterior cervical spine.
Twenty articles (two retrospective comparative studies and eighteen case series) satisfied the inclusion and exclusion criteria and were included. Both of the comparative studies involved comparison of lateral mass screw fixation with wiring and indicated that the risk of complications was comparable between treatments (range, 0% to 7.1% compared with 0% to 6.3%, respectively). In one study, the fusion rate reported in the screw fixation group (100%) was similar to that in the wiring group (97%).
Risks following lateral mass screw fixation were low across the eighteen case series. Nerve root injury attributed to screw placement occurred in 1.0% (95% confidence interval, 0.3% to 1.6%) of patients. No cases of vertebral artery injury were reported. Instrumentation complications such as screw or rod pullout, screw or plate breakage, and screw loosening occurred in <1% of the screws inserted. Fusion was achieved in 97.0% of patients across nine case series.
The risks of complications were low and the fusion rate was high when lateral mass screw fixation was used in patients undergoing posterior cervical subaxial fusion. Nerve root injury attributed to screw placement occurred in only 1% of 1041 patients. No cases of vertebral artery injury were identified in 758 patients. Screw or rod pullout, screw or plate breakage, and screw loosening occurred in <1% of the screws inserted 1).
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