Early surgery for thoracolumbar extension-type fractures in geriatric patients with ankylosing disorders reduces patient complications and mortality


      • This study evaluates the effect of early surgery on elderly patients which present with unstable extension type fractures following minor trauma.
      • Delay of surgery (>72 hours) in geriatric patients presenting with an unstable extension type thoracolumbar fracture may cause an increase in medical complications and mortality at 6 months.



      The management of trauma patients with ankylosing spinal disorders has become an issue of increasing interest. Geriatric patients frequently sustain unstable extension type vertebral fractures with ankylosed spines. In this population, studies have shown that early surgery for other injuries such as hip fractures may reduce patient complications and mortality. These studies have changed patient care protocols in many medical centers worldwide.


      We aim to assess the relationship between the timing of surgery for unstable vertebral fractures in ankylosed spines in the geriatric population and patient outcomes.


      Retrospective clinical study conducted in a tertiary hospital.


      Patients included were those diagnosed with isolated thoracolumbar extension type fractures and a spinal ankylosing disorder over 65 years old following minor trauma and with no additional injuries or neurological deficit.


      Primary outcome measures included postoperative medical complications and mortality at 1 and 6 months. Secondary outcome measures included rehospitalization rates, length of stay, and surgical site infections.


      We searched our department's database for all that met our inclusion criteria who underwent surgery. The difference in patient outcomes that underwent early surgery defined as less than 72 hours from diagnosis as opposed to those that underwent later surgery was assessed.


      A total of 82 patients underwent surgery following a diagnosis of an extension type thoracolumbar fracture at our institution between 2015 and 2021. Of these, 50 met inclusion criteria. Nineteen patients underwent surgery less than 72 hours from diagnosis and 31 more than 72 hours from diagnosis. No difference was found in age, functional status, and Elixhauser comorbidity scores between the groups. A statistically significant difference in perioperative patient complications between the early and the late groups (p=.005) was found. Mortality at six-months was significantly different between the groups as well (p=.035). There was no statistically significant difference between the groups when comparing surgical site infections, length of hospital stay, rehospitalization within a month, and perioperative mortality.


      Time to surgery affects complication rates and six-month mortality in geriatric patients with spinal ankylosing disorders presenting with an isolated unstable hyperextension type thoracolumbar fracture. Early surgery of less than 72 hours from presentation in this patient population is recommended.


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      Further reading

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