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Journal of Neurosurgical Sciences 2013 June;57(2):115-22


language: English

Thoracolumbar spine trauma: review of the evidence

Ghobrial G. M. 1, Jallo J. 1, 2

1 Department of Neurological Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA, USA; 2 Department of Neurological Surgery, Neurotrauma and Neurocritical Care, Philadelphia, PA, USA


Aim: The aim of this paper was to provide a comprehensive review of literature regarding the classification systems and surgical management of thoracolumbar spine trauma.
Methods: A Pubmed search of “thoracolumbar”, “spine”, “fracture” was used on January 05, 2013. Exclusionary criteria included non-Human studies, case reports, and non-clinical papers. Results. One thousand five hundred twenty manuscripts were initially returned for the combined search string; 150 were carefully reviewed, and 48 manuscripts were included in the review.
Discussion: Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) has a high prevalence in North America. The thoracolumbar junction is a point of high kinetic energy transfer and often results in thoracolumbar fractures. New classification systems for thoracolumbar spine fractures are being developed in an attempt to standardize evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment as well as reporting in the literature. Earlier classifications such as the Denis “3-column model” emphasized anatomic divisions to guide surgical planning. More modern classification systems such as the Thoracolumbar injury classification system (TLICS) emphasize initial neurologic status and structural integrity of the posterior ligamentous complex as a guide for surgical decision making and have demonstrated a high intra- and interobserver reliability. Other systems such as the Load-Sharing Classification aid as a useful tool in planning the extent of instrumentation and fusion.
Conclusion: There is still much controversy over the surgical management of various thoracolumbar fractures. Level I data exists supporting the nonsurgical management of thoracolumbar burst fractures without neurologic compromise. However, for the majority of fracture types in this region, more randomized controlled trials are necessary to establish standards of care.

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