Early ventral surgical treatment without traction of acute traumatic subaxial cervical spine injuries

Domenico A. Gattozzi, Bailey R. Yekzaman, Megan M. Jack, Michael J. O'Bryan, Paul M. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Spinal cord decompression after cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) is the standard of care. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding the optimal management of these injuries, including the role of traction and timing of surgery. Here, we report the safety/efficacy of ventral surgery without preoperative traction for intraoperative fracture reduction following acute cervical SCI. Methods: We prospectively collected a series of patients who sustained acute traumatic subaxial cervical (C3–7) spine fractures between 2004 and 2016. Patients underwent anterior cervical decompression and fusion within 24 h of injury without the utilization of preoperative traction. Results: Thirty‑six patients (27 male, 9 female), averaging 35 years of age, sustained 25 motor‑vehicle accidents, 4 sports‑related injuries, and 7 falls. Fracture dislocations were seen in 26 patients, whereas burst fractures were seen in 10. The majority of injuries occurred at the C4–5 (13 patients) and C5–6 (13 patients) levels. Complete SCI occurred in 10 patients, and incomplete SCI in 26 patients. All patients underwent anterior surgery only; 16 required vertebrectomy in addition to anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. Intraoperative reduction was achieved in all patients using a Cobb elevator or distraction pins without the use of preanesthesia traction. There were no intraoperative complications. Postoperatively, there were one postoperative hematoma, two wound/hardware revisions, one subsequent posterior fusion, and one reoperation anteriorly after screw pullout. The average hospital length of stay was 10.6 days (range 1–39). Conclusion: Early direct surgical stabilization/fusion for acute SCI because of subaxial cervical spine fractures is both safe and effective in selected cases when performed anteriorly without preoperative traction in select cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number254
JournalSurgical Neurology International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical
  • Fracture
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Surgery
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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