Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice

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Surgical decompression for traumatic spinal cord injury in a tertiary center

O.A. Ojo, E.O. Poluyi, B.S. Owolabi, O.O. Kanu, M.O. Popoola


Background: There are controversies regarding the importance and timing of spinal cord decompression following trauma. Documented evidence shows that early decompression in the setting of acute spinal cord injury (SCI) improves neurologic outcomes. Our objective was to evaluate the outcome of posttraumatic spinal cord decompression with or without spinal stabilization in our region.

Methodology: We performed a cross-sectional study on adult patients who presented with acute spinal cord compression of traumatic etiology within a 2-year period. The primary outcome was change in Frankel’s grading 6 months after surgery. Secondary outcomes were complication rates and mortality.

Results: A total of 35 patients made up of 24 (68.6%) males and 11 (31.4%) females were recruited into the study. The spectrum of injuries included cervical 27 (77.1%), thoracic 7 (20.0%), and lumbar vertebrae 1 (2.9%). The outcome as measured by Frankel’s grade at 6 months after surgery showed improvement in 9 (25.7%) patients following intervention. All patients who presented with Frankel’s Grade C and D improved to Grade E while none of those who presented with Frankel’s Grade E deteriorated. The common complications of spine decompression and fixation in this series were surgical site infections (11.4%) and chest infections (11.4%), especially in high cervical injury.

Conclusion: Spinal cord decompression with spinal stabilization enhances the rehabilitation of patients with unstable spine and completes spinal cord injuries. Our experience shows improvement in neurological function in patients with spinal cord decompression despite the challenges of instrumentation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords: Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, lateral mass fixation, spinal decompression, traumatic spinal cord injury
AJOL African Journals Online