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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 780-784

To determine the surgical outcome of anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion without fixation for ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament

Department of Neurosurgery, Dow University of Health Sciences, Civil Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan

Date of Web Publication2-Aug-2019

Correspondence Address:
Saqib Basar
Department of Neurosurgery, Civil Hospital, Baba-e-Urdu Road, Karachi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ajns.AJNS_54_17

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Aims: The purpose of our study is to evaluate the surgical outcome in patients undergoing anterior cervical corpectomy without fixation with plates and screws for the treatment of ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL). Subjects and Methods: The type of study was case series and was conducted from January 2015 to December 2015 for 1-year duration at the Department of Neurosurgery at a Tertiary Care hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. A total of n = 20 patients (16 men and 4 women; mean age of 57.45 ± 6.4 years [range: 45–68 years]) were included after thorough clinical history and physical examination. Neurological evaluation was done using the Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) scoring system. The pre- and post-operative JOA scores were used to calculate recovery rate (RR) of the patients. Radiographic assessment was done using various modalities such as X-ray, computed tomography scan, and magnetic resonance imaging. Surgical outcome and complications were studied and the data were analyzed using SPSS 21. Results: After the uniform follow-up period of 12 months, mean JOA scores improved from 9.1 ± 1.37 preoperatively to 14.3 ± 1.69 postoperatively and mean RR was 67.01 ± 15.5%. All the patients showed successful osseous fusion while one patient did not. Two patients developed cerebrospinal fluid leakage, one patient developed recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy, and one expired due to iatrogenic neurological deterioration. Conclusion: Anterior cervical corpectomy without fi xation with plates and screws is an effective surgical procedure for the treatment of OPLL (for up to three cervical levels of OPLL). It gives good neurological recovery with fewer postoperative complications.

Keywords: Anterior cervical corpectomy, hyperostosis, ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament, spinal fusion, surgical outcome

How to cite this article:
Younus SM, Imran M, Khan AA, Basar S, Sheikh D. To determine the surgical outcome of anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion without fixation for ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament. Asian J Neurosurg 2019;14:780-4

How to cite this URL:
Younus SM, Imran M, Khan AA, Basar S, Sheikh D. To determine the surgical outcome of anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion without fixation for ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament. Asian J Neurosurg [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Jul 3];14:780-4. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) is a hyperostotic condition that leads to ectopic calcification of posterior longitudinal ligament [1] and has been recognized as an important cause of cervical myelopathy. A number of studies have been done on OPLL related to its genetics and bony physiology, but the actual process behind the ossification had never been elucidated clearly.[2] OPLL causes compression of spinal cord, which leads to neurological symptoms and patients with severe neurological deficits require surgical intervention. Available surgical options are anterior and posterior approach. Anterior corpectomy and resection of OPLL enable complete decompression of the cord and give satisfactory results. However, this approach demands more technical skills and is associated with increased incidence of surgery-related complications, and this approach cannot be used for multisegmental OPLL. There is still some controversy regarding which technique would give the best surgical outcome. Many studies in the past have been done regarding anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion with plates. It is important to note that the use of these plates adds to surgical time and cost and makes revision surgery if needed much difficult to perform. They also cause damage to adjacent discs, nerve roots, and vertebral arteries. In this study, we aim to find out the surgical outcome of corpectomy without fixation (with plates and screws) and to assess the stability of the spine at 6-month follow-up without the use of implants.

  Subjects and Methods Top

Between January 2015 and December 2015, a total of n = 20 consecutive patients with cervical myelopathy following OPLL underwent anterior corpectomy and fusion without fixation. The study was approved by the Hospital Ethics Committee. After taking due informed consent from all the research participants, the patients were carefully evaluated both clinically and radiographically. Clinical evaluation included a thorough medical history and physical examination. Computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and standard anterior-posterior and lateral view X-rays were used for radiological assessment. The inclusion criteria were a diagnosis of OPLL with cervical myelopathy due to compression and only those patients who had OPLL up to three cervical levels were included in the study. The exclusion criteria included any history of trauma or previous cervical spine surgery, OPLL of more than three cervical levels, infection, tumor, congenital malformation of the central nervous system, or any chronic systemic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or neurodegenerative disease. The Japanese Orthopaedic Association scoring system was used to assess the pre- and post-operative severity of cervical myelopathy. CT scan was used to identify dural ossification which is seen as anterior and posterior rims of hyperdense area with central hypodensity. MRI showed cord compression and signal changes in the spinal cord with hyperintensity on T2-weighted imaging. These signal changes indicated severe damage to the cord. The patients were discharged from the hospital after about 4–6 days postoperatively. The physical therapist instructed the patient on mobilization techniques and the use of the cervical collar, necessary for appropriate healing of the bone.

Surgical intervention was done through a right-sided oblique incision just along the anterior border of sternocleidomastoid. Level was identified using image intensifier. Trenches procedure of 1.2 cm width (rather than 1.7 cm) was used to perform the corpectomy [Table 1]; we used a high-speed drill until the OPLL was thinned out. The longitudinal extent of corpectomy depends on the number of segments involved. Posterior longitudinal ligament was incised after passing the blunt hook at the junction of diseased and normal segment. Then, the OPLL was removed using Kerrison punch. Undercutting of OPLL was also performed laterally beyond 1.2 cm trench. Since the trench width in our case series was small, we neither used the graft alone to fuse nor the graft with fixation [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3].
Table 1: Clinical details of the patient population

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Figure 1: Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging showing trench coronal cuts

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Figure 2: Different patient postoperative magnetic resonance imaging

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Figure 3: Axial magnetic resonance imaging cuts

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Following operative procedure, the patients used the Philadelphia collar for at least 6 weeks duration and were allowed to mobilize as soon as patients were able to move.

Postoperative follow-up

The patients were asked for follow-up at 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months. In [Table 2], all the patients were asked to get their standard anteroposterior, lateral full flexion-extension X-ray of cervical spine to assess fusion. Fusion was defined by identifying bony trabeculations without bone lucency and the absence of motion at the fused segment. Evaluation of postoperative improvement in symptoms was done by calculating the recovery rate (RR) with the use of Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) scores as proposed by Hirabayashi et al.[3]
Table 2: Pre- and post-operative mean Japanese Orthopedic Association score difference with age, gender, and duration of disease symptoms using Wilcoxon signed-ranks test

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RRs were used to assess the surgical outcome by grading as follows: excellent, ≥75%; good, ≥50% but <75%; fair, ≥25% but <50%; or poor.

Statistical analysis

Data analysis was done using SPSS 21 (IBM Corp, Armonk, NY). Wilcoxon signed-ranked test was used to evaluate effect of included factors on pre- and post-operative JOA scores. The P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

  Results Top

A total of 16 males and 4 females, with a mean age of 57.45 ± 6.4 years (range: 45–68 years), completed 12-month follow-up period. The mean duration of symptoms was 19.1 ± 8.1 months (range: 6–36 months). The overall average JOA score improved from 9.1 ± 1.37 preoperatively to 14.3 ± 1.69 postoperatively (P < 0.05) with RR of about 67.01 ± 15.5% refer to [Graph 1]. The types of OPLL seen were continuous 90% (n = 18) and segmental 20% (n = 2).

Adequate decompression of the cord was seen in all the patients and was confirmed by MRI. Osseous union was seen in all of our patients after a period of 6 months postoperatively, except for one patient who expired.

The complications seen in our patients were cerebrospinal fluid leakage (CSFL), hoarseness of voice, and iatrogenic neurological deterioration. Intraoperatively, cerebrospinal fluid leak occurred in two patients after dural tearing because of tight adherence with the dura. Both of them were managed conservatively with complete bed rest for 4–6 days and administration of oral acetazolamide. One patient developed hoarseness of voice secondary to recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) palsy but recovered spontaneously within a week. One patient expired while in surgical Intensive Care Unit due to iatrogenic neurological deterioration. None of the patients developed graft-related complications such as pseudoarthrosis, graft migration, kyphosis, or graft displacement [Table 1]. The Wilcoxon signed-ranked test showed that mean postoperative JOA scores were significantly higher than the median preoperative JOA score for both the age groups of 45–55 years and more than 55 years (P = 0.026 and P = 0.001, respectively). The difference between these scores was significant in male patients (P ≤ 0.001) but not in female patients (P = 0.066). The test also showed a significant difference in JOA scores for both the groups according to the duration of symptoms (<20 months P = 0.002, ≥20 months P = 0.011).

Neurological outcome was evaluated from the rates of recovery. Forty percent of the patients had excellent RRs, 50% had good RR, and fair RRs were seen in 10% of patients as illustrated in [Table 2]. None of patients had a poor outcome [Table 3].
Table 3: Surgical outcome from recovery rates

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  Discussion Top

OPLL is a rare disease occurring as a result of abnormal ossification, which leads to progressive myeloradiculopathy. The chronic compression from ossification of the ligament reduces the canal diameter and contributes to myelopathy and severe neurological disability. The incidence of OPLL has been estimated to be about 1.9%–4.3% in Japanese and Asian countries among individuals more than 30 years of age and in white people, it is 0.10%–1.8%, respectively.[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9] Another study done in China showed that OPLL was predominantly seen in the middle age and this incidence reached up to 5.6% among the people over 50 years of age.[10] However, no such studies have been conducted in Pakistan regarding the incidence of OPLL.

Surgical techniques available for OPLL include the anterior approach and the posterior. Anterior approach includes discectomy and corpectomy with or without fusion, and posterior approach includes laminectomy or laminoplasty. Anterior approach is associated with better postoperative neurological outcome than the posterior approach for the management of cervical myelopathy associated with OPLL.[11] Many studies have shown that the anterior approach is not associated with a higher risk of surgical trauma and increased incidence of surgery-related complications.

In this study, we did trench procedure by making trench of 1.2 cm without using cervical plates (rather than 1.7 cm with plates), and the final outcome when recovery of the patients is concerned is as satisfactory as with fixation. To stabilize the graft, patients were asked to wear Philadelphia collar for 6 weeks. The results of the study showed that anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion without plate fixation were an effective procedure, with improved mean postoperative JOA score and successful fusion at 6 months. In a study with a long follow-up period of about 5 years showed that anterior approach gave higher JOA score postoperatively and RRs than the posterior approach.[12]

Complications commonly associated with surgeries of OPLL include CSFL, hoarseness of voice, epidural hematoma, cranial nerve five palsy, and dysphagia. The most common complication seen after corpectomy is CSFL with its incidence rate between 4.6% and 32%. Improper management of CSFL leads to purulent meningitis, wound infection and is also associated with mortality.[13],[14] In the case of OPLL, CSF leakage occurs either due to the tight adherence of dura or when the ossified dura fuses with the ligament, which increases the risk of CSF leakage when surgical intervention for the removal of the ossified mass is done. Ossification of the dura can be seen on the bone window of preoperative CT scans as single- or double-layer sign.[15],[16] In this study, two patients reported to have CSF leakage due to tight adherence of dura and no signs of dural ossification were seen on CT scans. They were managed conservatively leading to complete recovery. Postoperative hoarseness following anterior cervical surgeries can be due to RLN or superior laryngeal nerve injury, hematoma and edema, laryngeal and pharyngeal trauma, or arytenoid dislocation. Injury to RLN is commonly due to its compression against endotracheal tube. Our one patient developed hoarseness secondary to RLN palsy but recovered spontaneously after a week.

Various studies have been done relating the outcome of corpectomy and prognostic factors such as sex, age, type of ossification, duration of symptoms, number of levels involved, history of diabetes, preoperative JOA score, and other related radiographic parameters. Among these factors, many are considered to be key predictors too. Patients with longer duration of symptoms (≥24 months), more number of corpectomies (≥3), or lower preoperative JOA score (<9 points) were prone to have poor surgical outcome.[17] Another study reported that longer duration of symptoms, T1 hypointensity on MRI, and a history of minor trauma were highly indicative of a poor surgical outcome.[18] Older age was found to be associated with poor long-term surgical outcome.[19] The Wilcoxon signed-ranked test showed that the difference in pre- and post-operative JOA scores was significant for age (45–55 years P = 0.026 and >55 years P = 0.001), male gender (P = 0.000), and duration of symptoms (<20 months P = 0.002 and ≥20 months P = 0.011). The significant increase in JOA score from 9.10 ± 1.37 preoperatively to 14.3 ± 1.69 postoperatively (P ≤ 0.05) with RR of 67.01 ± 15.5% showed that this procedure is effective for treating patients with myelopathy secondary to OPLL. Our study revealed that anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion without fixation with plates and screws has a good surgical outcome at 6-month follow-up.

The current study has some limitations. First, a limited number of 20 patients were recruited due to the rarity of this condition which is a very low number of cases. Second, our follow-up period was short, that is, 6 months in duration. Third, financial constraints did not allow the authors to investigate all the factors that might be related to the outcome of anterior cervical corpectomy as shown by international studies. Fourth, there was no control group from which to compare the outcome of the procedure. Hence, in the light of the aforementioned limitations, we propose that further studies be done to advance the use of this procedure.


We did not receive any funding, scholarship, etc., for conducting this research. The study was conducted in a public sector hospital and all the necessary provisions were provided for by the hospital as per norm. Any other expenses were borne by the all the authors equally. We do not have any conflict of interest.

  Conclusion Top

According to the results of our study, the anterior cervical corpectomy without fixation is an effective treatment for ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament for up to involvement of three cervical levels, it provide good outcome post operatively with significant neurological recovery.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Kalb S, Martirosyan NL, Perez-Orribo L, Kalani MY, Theodore N. Analysis of demographics, risk factors, clinical presentation, and surgical treatment modalities for the ossified posterior longitudinal ligament. Neurosurg Focus 2011;30:E11.  Back to cited text no. 1
Maeda S, Koga H, Matsunaga S, Numasawa T, Ikari K, Furushima K, et al. Gender-specific haplotype association of collagen alpha2 (XI) gene in ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament of the spine. J Hum Genet 2001;46:1-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
Hirabayashi K, Miyakawa J, Satomi K, Maruyama T, Wakano K. Operative results and postoperative progression of ossification among patients with ossification of cervical posterior longitudinal ligament. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 1981;6:354-64.  Back to cited text no. 3
Matsunaga S, Yamaguchi M, Hayashi K, Sakou T. Genetic analysis of ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 1999;24:937-8.  Back to cited text no. 4
Okamoto K, Kobashi G, Washio M, Sasaki S, Yokoyama T, Miyake Y, et al. Dietary habits and risk of ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligaments of the spine (OPLL); findings from a case-control study in Japan. J Bone Miner Metab 2004;22:612-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
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Taketomi E, Sakou T, Matsunaga S, Yamaguchi M. Family study of a twin with ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament in the cervical spine. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 1992;17 3 Suppl:S55-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Izawa K. Comparative radiographic study on the incidence of ossification of the cervical spine among Japanese, Koreans, Americans, and Germans. J Jpn Orthop Assoc 1980;54:461-74.  Back to cited text no. 8
Terayama K, Ohtsuka K. Epidemiological study of OPLL in Bologna, Italy. Investigation Committee 1983 Report on the Ossification of the Spinal Ligaments of the Japanese Ministry of Public Health and Welfare; 1984. p. 55-62.  Back to cited text no. 9
Chen Y, Wang X, Chen D, Yang H, Yang L, Liu Y. Epidemiological Study of OPLL in China. Report on 2013 Annual Meeting of China Orthopedic Association; 2013. p. 102-4.  Back to cited text no. 10
Feng F, Ruan W, Liu Z, Li Y, Cai L. Anterior versus posterior approach for the treatment of cervical compressive myelopathy due to ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Surg 2016;27:26-33.  Back to cited text no. 11
Sakai K, Okawa A, Takahashi M, Arai Y, Kawabata S, Enomoto M, et al. Five-year follow-up evaluation of surgical treatment for cervical myelopathy caused by ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament: A prospective comparative study of anterior decompression and fusion with floating method versus laminoplasty. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2012;37:367-76.  Back to cited text no. 12
Li H, Dai LY. A systematic review of complications in cervical spine surgery for ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament. Spine J 2011;11:1049-57.  Back to cited text no. 13
Mazur M, Jost GF, Schmidt MH, Bisson EF. Management of cerebrospinal fluid leaks after anterior decompression for ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament: A review of the literature. Neurosurg Focus 2011;30:E13.  Back to cited text no. 14
Hida K, Iwasaki Y, Koyanagi I, Abe H. Bone window computed tomography for detection of dural defect associated with cervical ossified posterior longitudinal ligament. Neurol Med Chir (Tokyo) 1997;37:173-5.  Back to cited text no. 15
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Gu Y, Shi J, Cao P, Yuan W, Wu H, Yang L, et al. Clinical and imaging predictors of surgical outcome in multilevel cervical ossification of posterior longitudinal ligament: An analysis of 184 patients. PLoS One 2015;10:e0136042.  Back to cited text no. 18
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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