Sacral insufficiency fractures after lumbosacral arthrodesis: salvage lumbopelvic fixation and a proposed management algorithm.


OBJECTIVE:Sacral insufficiency fracture after lumbosacral (LS) arthrodesis is an uncommon complication. The objective of this study was to report the authors' operative experience managing this complication, review pertinent literature, and propose a treatment algorithm. METHODS:The authors analyzed consecutive adult patients treated at their institution from 2009 to 2018. Patients who underwent surgery for sacral insufficiency fractures after posterior instrumented LS arthrodesis were included. PubMed was queried to identify relevant articles detailing management of this complication. RESULTS:Nine patients with a minimum 6-month follow-up were included (mean age 73 ± 6 years, BMI 30 ± 6 kg/m2, 56% women, mean follow-up 35 months, range 8-96 months). Six patients had osteopenia/osteoporosis (mean dual energy x-ray absorptiometry hip T-score -1.6 ± 0.5) and 3 received treatment. Index LS arthrodesis was performed for spinal stenosis (n = 6), proximal junctional kyphosis (n = 2), degenerative scoliosis (n = 1), and high-grade spondylolisthesis (n = 1). Presenting symptoms of back/leg pain (n = 9) or lower extremity weakness (n = 3) most commonly occurred within 4 weeks of index LS arthrodesis, which prompted CT for fracture diagnosis at a mean of 6 weeks postoperatively. All sacral fractures were adjacent or involved S1 screws and traversed the spinal canal (Denis zone III). H-, U-, or T-type sacral fracture morphology was identified in 7 patients. Most fractures (n = 8) were Roy-Camille type II (anterior displacement with kyphosis). All patients underwent lumbopelvic fixation via a posterior-only approach; mean operative duration and blood loss were 3.3 hours and 850 ml, respectively. Bilateral dual iliac screws were utilized in 8 patients. Back/leg pain and weakness improved postoperatively. Mean sacral fracture anterolisthesis and kyphotic angulation improved (from 8 mm/11° to 4 mm/5°, respectively) and all fractures were healed on radiographic follow-up (mean duration 29 months, range 8-90 months). Two patients underwent revision for rod fractures at 1 and 2 years postoperatively. A literature review found 17 studies describing 87 cases; potential risk factors were osteoporosis, longer fusions, high pelvic incidence (PI), and postoperative PI-to-lumbar lordosis (LL) mismatch. CONCLUSIONS:A high index of suspicion is needed to diagnose sacral insufficiency fracture after LS arthrodesis. A trial of conservative management is reasonable for select patients; potential surgical indications include refractory pain, neurological deficit, fracture nonunion with anterolisthesis or kyphotic angulation, L5-S1 pseudarthrosis, and spinopelvic malalignment. Lumbopelvic fixation with iliac screws may be effective salvage treatment to allow fracture healing and symptom improvement. High-risk patients may benefit from prophylactic lumbopelvic fixation at the time of index LS arthrodesis.





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Publication Info

Buell, Thomas J, Ulas Yener, Tony R Wang, Avery L Buchholz, Chun-Po Yen, Mark E Shaffrey, Christopher I Shaffrey, Justin S Smith, et al. (2020). Sacral insufficiency fractures after lumbosacral arthrodesis: salvage lumbopelvic fixation and a proposed management algorithm. Journal of neurosurgery. Spine. pp. 1–12. 10.3171/2019.12.spine191148 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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