Surgical management of posttraumatic thoracolumbar kyphosis

Jacob M. Buchowski, Craig A. Kuhns, Keith H. Bridwell, Lawrence G. Lenke

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Background context: Spine trauma is relatively common, and each year approximately 10,000 to 17,000 people in the United States will sustain a spinal cord injury and approximately 150,000 to 160,000 will fracture their spinal column. Posttraumatic spinal deformity is a common potential complication of spinal injury and poses one of the greatest challenges in spinal surgery. Purpose: To provide a comprehensive and current review of posttraumatic deformity focusing on the epidemiology, clinical and radiographical presentation, treatment options, and prognosis. Study design/setting: A thorough review of the English literature on the management of posttraumatic deformity was performed. Pertinent articles were identified by using PubMed and a review of publications by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Methods: Each article was reviewed, and findings were analyzed to formulate a concise review of current treatment methods for posttraumatic deformity. Results: Successful treatment of posttraumatic deformity is dependent on careful patient selection and appropriate surgical intervention, which should be considered in the presence of significant or increasing deformity, increasing back and/or leg pain, "breakdown" at levels above or below the deformity, pseudarthrosis or malunion, and increasing neurological deficit. The goals of surgery should be to decompress the neural elements if neurological claudication or a neurological deficit is present, to recreate normal sagittal contours and balance, and to optimize the chances for successful fusion; these goals can be achieved through an all-anterior, all-posterior, or a combined anterior/posterior approach assuming that close attention is paid to using the appropriate bone-grafting techniques, selecting technically sound segmental instrumentation, and providing appropriate biomechanical environment for maintenance of correction and successful fusion. Conclusions: Posttraumatic spinal deformity is a common complication of spinal injury, and it is therefore essential for patients with vertebral column injuries to have a careful initial evaluation, close follow-up, and early intervention when needed. Once posttraumatic deformity is present, successful outcome is achievable assuming a thorough, systematic, and technically well-executed surgical intervention is performed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)666-677
Number of pages12
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Posttraumatic deformity
  • Posttraumatic kyphosis
  • Sagittal imbalance
  • Spinal deformity
  • Spine trauma


Dive into the research topics of 'Surgical management of posttraumatic thoracolumbar kyphosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this