What is the Optimal Surgical Method for Achieving Correction and Avoiding Neurological Complications in Pediatric High-grade Spondylolisthesis?

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Controversy persists in the treatment of high-grade spondylolisthesis (HGS). Surgery is recommended in patients with intrusive symptoms and evidence debates the competing strategies. This study compares the radiologic outcomes and postoperative complications at a minimum of 2 years follow-up for patients with HGS treated with instrumented fusion with partial reduction (IFIS) with those treated with reduction, decompression, and instrumented fusion (RIF). We hypothesize that IFIS leads to a lower rate of complication and revision surgery than RIF.


A retrospective comparative methodology was used to analyze consecutive HGS treated surgically between 2006 and 2017. Patients diagnosed with ≥grade 3 spondylolisthesis treated with arthrodesis before the age of 18 years with a minimum of 2 years follow-up were included. Patients were excluded if surgery did not aim to achieve arthrodesis or was a revision procedure. Cases were identified through departmental and neurophysiological records.


Thirty patients met the inclusion criteria. Mean follow-up was 4 years. Ten patients underwent IFIS and the remaining 20 underwent RIF. The 2 groups showed no difference in demographics, grade of slip, deformity or presenting symptoms. Of 10 treated with IFIS, the SA reduced by a mean of 10 degrees and C7 sagittal vertical line changed by 31 mm. In the RIF cohort, SA reduced by 16 degrees and C7 sagittal vertical line reduced by 26 mm. PT was unchanged in both groups. In IFIS cohort, 2 patients showed postoperative weakness, resolved by 2 years. None required revision surgery. In the RIF group, 4 sustained dural tears and 1 a laminar fracture, 7 showed postoperative weakness or dysaesthesia, 3 of which had not resolved by 2 years. Eight patients underwent unplanned further surgery, 3 for pseudarthrosis.


RIF and IFIS show similar radiologic outcomes. RIF shows a higher rate of unplanned return to surgery, pseudarthrosis and persisting neurological changes.

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Level III-retrospective comparative study.





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Rocos, Brett, Samuel Strantzas, Reinhard Zeller, Stephen Lewis, Tony Tan and David Lebel (2021). What is the Optimal Surgical Method for Achieving Correction and Avoiding Neurological Complications in Pediatric High-grade Spondylolisthesis?. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 41(3). pp. e217–e225. 10.1097/bpo.0000000000001707 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29700.

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Brett Rocos

Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

I joined the team at Duke University Health from London, UK, where I was a Consultant Adult and Paediatric Spine Surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust and Honorary Consultant Senior Lecturer at Queen Mary University of London. I completed my surgical training in in the South West of the UK and at the University of Toronto, and am fellowship trained in adult spine surgery, paediatric spine surgery, orthopaedic trauma surgery, research and healthcare management.

I am driven to support patients at every stage of their care, from clinic assessment, through surgery to discharge. Making sure that every person, adult, child, family or friend understands what’s wrong, helping them to choose the right treatment for them, and what the recovery will be like is an important priority.

My research activity focusses on finding effective new treatments for spinal disorders and bringing them to patients. Focusing on spinal deformity, I have led investigations in the UK, Canada and the USA, and I sit on the Global AO Knowledge Forum for Deformity and the Research Grants Committee at the Scoliosis Research Society. I have lectured in North America and Europe about the treatment of spine disorders for the Scoliosis Research Society, Global Spine Congress, AO Spine and Eurospine, and I have worked hard to produce research that improves the care for spine patients wherever they live. Lastly, I review for several orthopaedic journals and I am Deputy Editor of the Bone and Joint 360, a leading publication with a global readership.

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