Incidence, mode, and location of acute proximal junctional failures after surgical treatment of adult spinal deformity.


Study design

Multicenter, retrospective series.


To analyze the incidence, mode, and location of acute proximal junctional failures (APJFs) after surgical treatment of adult spinal deformity.

Summary of background data

Early proximal junctional failures above adult deformity constructs are a serious clinical problem; however, the incidence and nature of early APJFs remain unclear.


A total of 1218 consecutive adult spinal deformity surgeries across 10 deformity centers were retrospectively reviewed to evaluate the incidence and nature of APJF, defined as any of the following within 28 weeks of index procedure: minimum 15° post-operative increase in proximal junctional kyphosis, vertebral fracture of upper instrumented vertebrae (UIV) or UIV + 1, failure of UIV fixation, or need for proximal extension of fusion within 6 months of surgery.


Sixty-eight APJF cases were identified out of 1218 consecutive surgeries (5.6%). Patients had a mean age of 63 years (range, 26-82 yr), mean fusion levels of 9.8 (range, 4-18), and mean time to APJF of 11.4 weeks (range, 1.5-28 wk). Fracture was the most common failure mode (47%), followed by soft-tissue failure (44%). Failures most often occurred in the thoracolumbar region (TL-APJF) compared with the upper thoracic region (UT-APJF), with 66% of patients experiencing TL-APJF compared with 34% experiencing UT-APJF. Fracture was significantly more common for TL-APJF relative to UT-APJF (P = 0.00), whereas soft-tissue failure was more common for UT-APJF (P < 0.02). Patients experiencing TL-APJF were also older (P = 0.00), had fewer fusion levels (P = 0.00), and had worse postoperative sagittal vertical axis (P < 0.01).


APJFs were identified in 5.6% of patients undergoing surgical treatment of adult spinal deformity, with failures occurring primarily in the TL region of the spine. There is evidence that the mode of failure differs depending on the location of UIV, with TL failures more likely due to fracture and UT failures more likely due to soft-tissue failures.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Hostin, Richard, Ian McCarthy, Michael OʼBrien, Shay Bess, Breton Line, Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, Doug Burton, Munish Gupta, et al. (2013). Incidence, mode, and location of acute proximal junctional failures after surgical treatment of adult spinal deformity. Spine, 38(12). pp. 1008–1015. 10.1097/brs.0b013e318271319c Retrieved from

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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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