Complications in long fusions to the sacrum for adult scoliosis: Minimum five-year analysis of fifty patients

Joseph K. Weistroffer, Joseph H. Perra, John E. Lonstein, James D. Schwender, Timothy A. Garvey, Ensor E. Transfeldt, James W. Ogilvie, Francis Denis, Robert B. Winter, Jill M. Wroblewski

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Study design.: A retrospective study of complications with minimal 5-year follow-up of 50 adults with scoliosis with fusion from T10 or higher to S1. Objectives.: To document the perioperative and long-term complications and instrumentation problems, and to attempt to determine variables which may influence these problems. It is not a study of curve correction, balance, or functional outcome. Summary of background data.: Several previous studies from this and other centers have shown a relatively high complication rate for this select group of patients. Various fusion techniques (anterior, posterior, autograft, allograft), various instrumentation techniques, and various immobilization techniques have created confusion as to the best methodology to employ. Minimal 2-year follow-ups have been standard, but longer follow-ups have shown additional problems. Methods.: The study cohort consisted of 50 adult patients from a single center who had undergone corrective scoliosis surgery from T10 or higher to the sacrum and who had at least a 5-year minimum follow-up. The mean age was 54 years (range, 18-72), and the mean follow-up was 9.7 years (range, 5-26). All radiographs, office charts, and hospital charts were combed by an independent investigator for complications, which were divided into major and minor, as well as early, intermediate and late. The curvature values and corrections were the subject of a different article, and were not included in this study. Results.: There were no deaths or spinal cord injuries. Six patients had nerve root complications, 4 of which totally recovered. Pseudarthrosis was seen in 24% of the patients, only 25% of which were detected within the 2-year follow-up period. Pseudarthrosis was most common at the lumbosacral level. There was no statistical difference in the pseudarthrosis rate between patients with sacral-only fixation versus iliac fixation. Painful implants requiring removal were noted in 11 of the 50 patients. Conclusion.: Long fusions to the sacrum in adults with scoliosis continue to have a high complication rate. As compared to the original publications in the 1980s (Kostuik and Hall, Spine 1983;8:489-500; Balderston et al, Spine 1986;11:824-9) the more recent articles have shown a reduction, but not elimination of the pseudarthrosis problem using segmental instrumentation and anterior fusion of the lumbar spine coupled with structural interbody grafting at L4-L5 and L5-S1. Two-year follow-up is inadequate as pseudarthrosis and painful implants often are detected later. Only 3 of the 12 patients with pseudarthrosis were detected within the first 2 years after surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1478-1483
Number of pages6
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 1 2008


  • Adult scoliosis
  • Complications
  • Long fusions to the sacrum
  • Long-term follow-up
  • Pseudarthrosis


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