Spinal instrumentation with a low complication rate

Scott A. Shapiro, William Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Spinal instrumentation has become an increasing part of the armamentarium of neurosurgery and neurosurgical training. For noncontroversial indications for spine fusion the arthrodesis rate seems to be better. For both noncontroversial and controversial indications, the reported complication rate with spinal instrumentation tends to be greater than that with noninstrumented spine surgeries. These reported complications include a 2-3% neurologic injury rate, 3-45% reoperation rate for implant failure, and infection rates of 5-10%. Therefore, we report on 299 cases that have undergone spinal instrumentation placed exclusively by neurosurgeons with a very low complication rate. METHODS: Two hundred ninety-nine consecutive spinal instrumentation cases performed exclusively by neurosurgeons at Indiana University Medical Center were analyzed for complications related to spinal instrumentation. The spinal instrumentation placed consisted of 195 anterior cervical locking plates, 22 cases of posterior cervical instrumentation, 9 cases of combined anterior locking plates with posterior cervical instrumentation, 14 anterior thoracolumbar plates, 51 posterior thoraco-lumbar instrumentation cases, and 8 combined anterior/posterior thoracolumbar instrumentation cases. RESULTS: The mean follow-up is 40 months (6-95). There was one perioperative death unrelated to the spinal instrumentation. There were no neurologic injuries and there has been no hardware infection to date. There were two dural tears, three superficial wound infections, and three minor wound breakdowns successfully treated. Hardware complications included three cervical plate/screw extrusions reoperated, one cervical plate fracture reoperated, one posterior cervical screw backout not reoperated, one case of broken pedicle screws not reoperated, one vertebral body failure not reoperated, and one posterior rod case reoperated for excessive rod length and protrusion. The overall complication rate attributable to placement of spinal instrumentation was 10/299 (3%) with a reoperation rate of 2%. The arthrodesis rate was 298/299 (99%). CONCLUSION: The complication rate for using spinal instrumentation can be less than previously reported. Lessons learned and discussed should reduce the rate even more. Spinal instrumentation is a safe and useful adjunct to fusion in treating degenerative, traumatic, infectious, and neoplastic diseases of the spine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-574
Number of pages9
JournalSurgical Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997


  • Complications
  • Hardware infection
  • Spinal instrumentation
  • Spine fusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery

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