Time of Surgery in the Outcome of Cervical Spinal Cord Injury: the University of Puerto Rico Experience

Miguel Mayol, Fanor M. Saavedra, Rodolfo Alcedo, Gisela Murray, Emil A. Pastrana


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of the timing of surgery on the neurological function of patients with a cervical spinal cord injury. Methods: Retrospectively, an analysis was done of patients who underwent decompression and/or spinal cord stabilization surgeries from 2010 through 2014 for cervical trauma. All patients were older than 18 years of age, had had surgery at our facility, and had made at least 1 follow-up visit. American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale (AIS) scores were compared for patients who underwent early surgeries (less than 72 hours after trauma) and for those who underwent late surgeries (more than 72 hours after trauma). Results: There were a total of 107 patients. Sixty-two patients had spinal cord injuries. The average age was 38.6 years, and 84% of the participants were male. The most common mechanism of trauma was motor vehicle accident. Twenty-nine percent of the patients developed neurogenic shock and 27% experienced respiratory failure during the first week after admission. Seventeen patients died during the study period. A multivariate analysis of AIS score improvement revealed that the only significant factor was incomplete neurological injury. There was no significant difference in the percentage of patients that improved with early surgery compared to that of those that improved after late surgery. Conclusion: Traumatic cervical spinal cord injury is associated with high mortality and morbidity. Early surgery was not associated with an improved neurological outcome at long-term follow-up. The benefit of early surgery was seen only in terms of decreasing each patient’s length of hospital stay.


Spinal Cord Injury; Early Surgery; Cervical Spine

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