Unilateral versus bilateral lower extremity motor deficit following complex adult spinal deformity surgery: is there a difference in recovery up to 2-year follow-up?


Background context

Scoli-RISK-1 is a multicenter prospective cohort designed to study neurologic outcomes following complex adult spinal deformity (ASD). The effect of unilateral versus bilateral postoperative motor deficits on the likelihood of long-term recovery has not been previously studied in this population.


To evaluate whether bilateral postoperative neurologic deficits have a worse recovery than unilateral deficits.

Study design

Secondary analysis of a prospective, multicenter, international cohort study.


In a cohort of 272 patients, neurologic decline was defined as deterioration of the American Spinal Injury Association Lower Extremity Motor Scores (LEMS) following surgery. Patients with lower extremity neurologic decline were grouped into unilateral and bilateral cohorts. Differences in demographics, surgical variables, and patient outcome measures between the two cohorts were analyzed.


A total of 265 patients had LEMS completed at discharge. Unilateral decline was seen in 32 patients (12%), while 29 (11%) had bilateral symptoms. At 2 years, there was no significant difference in either median LEMS (unilateral 50.0, interquartile range [IQR] 47.5-50.0; bilateral 50.0, IQR 48.0-50.0, p=.939) or change in LEMS from baseline (unilateral 0.0, IQR -1.0 to 0.0; bilateral 0.0, IQR -1.0 to 0.0, p=.920). In both groups, approximately two-thirds of patients saw recovery to at least their preoperative baseline by 2 years postoperatively (unilateral n=15, 63%; bilateral n=14, 67%). The mean Scoliosis Research Society-22R (SRS-22R) score at 2 years was 3.7±0.6 versus 3.2±0.6 (p=.009) for unilateral and bilateral groups, respectively.


The prognosis for neurologic recovery of new motor deficits following complex adult spinal deformity is similar with both unilateral and bilateral weaknesses. Despite similar rates of neurologic recovery, patient reported outcomes for those with bilateral motor decline measured by SRS-22R are worse at 2 years after surgery.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Tuchman, Alexander, Lawrence G Lenke, Meghan Cerpa, Michael G Fehlings, Stephen J Lewis, Christopher I Shaffrey, Kenneth MC Cheung, Leah Yacat Carreon, et al. (2019). Unilateral versus bilateral lower extremity motor deficit following complex adult spinal deformity surgery: is there a difference in recovery up to 2-year follow-up?. The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society, 19(3). pp. 395–402. 10.1016/j.spinee.2018.08.003 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/28218.

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Christopher Ignatius Shaffrey

Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

I have more than 25 years of experience treating patients of all ages with spinal disorders. I have had an interest in the management of spinal disorders since starting my medical education. I performed residencies in both orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire range of spinal disorders. My goal has been to find innovative ways to manage the range of spinal conditions, straightforward to complex. I have a focus on managing patients with complex spinal disorders. My patient evaluation and management philosophy is to provide engaged, compassionate care that focuses on providing the simplest and least aggressive treatment option for a particular condition. In many cases, non-operative treatment options exist to improve a patient’s symptoms. I have been actively engaged in clinical research to find the best ways to manage spinal disorders in order to achieve better results with fewer complications.

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