Surgery for traumatic fractures of the upper thoracic spine (T1–T6)

Domenico A. Gattozzi, Lisa A. Friis, Paul M. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The management of traumatic upper thoracic spine fractures (T1–T6) is complex due to the unique biomechanical/physiological characteristics of these levels and the nature of the injuries. They are commonly associated with multiple other traumatic injuries and severe spinal cord injuries. We describe the safety and efficacy of surgery for achieving stability and maintaining reduction of upper thoracic T1–T6 spine fractures. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed a series of traumatic unstable upper thoracic (T1–T6) spine fractures treated at one institution between 1993 and 2016. All patients were assessed neurologically and underwent complete preoperative radiographic analysis of their T1–T6 spine fractures including assessment of instability. Neurological and radiographic outcomes including fusion rates, kyphotic deformity, and successful reduction of the fracture were evaluated along with hospital length of stay (LOS), intensive care unit LOS, and overall complication rates. Results: There were 43 patients (29 males, 14 females) with an average age of 37.7 years. Between 1993 and 1999, 8 patients were treated with hook/rod constructs, whereas between 1995 and 2016, 35 patients received pedicle screw fixation utilizing intraoperative fluoroscopy or computed tomography (CT) navigation. Forty‑three patients had a total of 178 levels fused. In this series, there were no intraoperative vascular or neurological complications. Instrumentation was removed in five patients due to pain, wound infection, or hardware failure. The mean hospital LOS was 21.1 days (range 4–59 days), and there was a 95% fusion rate based on follow‑up imaging (X‑rays or CT scan). Conclusions: Surgical treatment of upper thoracic spine fractures (T1–T6), although complex, is safe and effective. Reduction and fixation of these fractures decreases the risk of further neurological complications, allows for earlier mobilization, and correlates with shorter hospital LOS and improved outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number231
JournalSurgical Neurology International
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Fracture
  • Spine
  • Surgery
  • Thoracic
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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