Anterior cervical infection: Presentation and incidence of an uncommon postoperative complication

George M. Ghobrial, James S. Harrop, Rick C. Sasso, Chadi A. Tannoury, Tony Tannoury, Zachary A. Smith, Wellington K. Hsu, Paul M. Arnold, Michael G. Fehlings, Thomas E. Mroz, Anthony F. De Giacomo, Bruce C. Jobse, Ra'Kerry K. Rahman, Sara E. Thompson, K. Daniel Riew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Design: Retrospective multi-institutional case series. Objective: The anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) affords the surgeon the flexibility to treat a variety of cervical pathologies, with the majority being for degenerative and traumatic indications. Limited data in the literature describe the presentation and true incidence of postoperative surgical site infections. Methods: A retrospective multicenter case series study was conducted involving 21 high-volume surgical centers from the AOSpine North America Clinical Research Network, selected for their excellence in spine care and clinical research infrastructure and experience. Medical records for 17 625 patients who received cervical spine surgery (levels from C2 to C7) between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2011, inclusive, were reviewed to identify the occurrence of 21 predefined treatment complications. Patients who underwent an ACDF were identified in the database and reviewed for the occurrence of postoperative anterior cervical infections. Results: A total of 8887 patients were identified from a retrospective database analysis of 21 centers providing data for postoperative anterior cervical infections (17/21, 81% response rate). A total of 6 postoperative infections after ACDF were identified for a mean rate of 0.07% (range 0% to 0.39%). The mean age of patients identified was 57.5 (SD = 11.6, 66.7% female). The mean body mass index was 22.02. Of the total infections, half were smokers (n = 3). Two patients presented with myelopathy, and 3 patients presented with radiculopathic-type complaints. The mean length of stay was 4.7 days. All patients were treated aggressively with surgery for management of this complication, with improvement in all patients. There were no mortalities. Conclusion: The incidence of postoperative infection in ACDF is exceedingly low. The management has historically been urgent irrigation and debridement of the surgical site. However, due to the rarity of this occurrence, guidance for management is limited to retrospective series.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12S-16S
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • complications
  • durotomy
  • lumbar spine
  • thoracolumbar
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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