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ZENNER, Juliane et al. Approach-related morbidity in transthoracic anterior spine surgery: a clinical study and review of literature. Coluna/Columna [online]. 2010, vol.9, n.1, pp.72-84. ISSN 1808-1851.

BACKGROUND: Anterior access to the thoracic spine is done by open thoracotomy (OTC) or video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). VATS is known as the method which results in lower morbidity rates, but there is little evidence of its less invasiveness. Objective: The current study yielded for outcome data concerning patients' perception of approach-related morbidity (ArM) following OTC for spinal surgery and that of a control group having a chest tube thoracotomy (CTT). METHODS: We performed a questionnaire assessment of ArM after OTC and CTT. Applying strict inclusion criteria, we compared outcomes in terms of percentage morbidity (Morbidity %) of 43 patients that underwent OTC for instrumented scoliosis correction to 30 patients that had CTT for minor thoracic pathologies (e.g., pneumothorax). RESULTS: Mean age in CTT and OTC Group was 50.2 and 16.5 years old, follow-up was of 32.2 and 58.4 months, and mean incision length was 2.5 and 25.5 cm, respectively. Mean number of levels fused in the OTC Group was 5.8. Mean morbidity (0% delineating no cases, 100% delineating highest morbidity) for the CTT Group was 10.8±15.4% (0-59.5%), 42% of patients had no morbidity. Signs of intercostal neuralgia (ICN) were present in 16.7%. A total of 35.5% had a morbidity >10% (mean: 27.5%), and 10% of morbidity cases were defined as having a chronic post-thoracotomy pain (CPP). In the OTC Group, mean morbidity was 7.0±12.7% (0-52.1%), 44% had no morbidity. Out of the sample, 18.6% had morbidity >10% (mean: 28.6%). Signs of ICN were present in 14%. In both groups, the presence of ICN had a significant impact on and showed correlation with morbidity (p<0.0001). In terms of clinical judgement, the severity of the ArM after a CTT or OTC was generally mild except for one patient in each group. Age and follow-up were significantly different between groups (p<0.0001, p=0.02), but the intergroup difference in morbidity was not significant (p=0.08). CONCLUSIONS: ArM after open thoracic spinal surgery or VATS procedures can be assessed using the questionnaire. To put ArM of OTC into perspective, a Control Group with simple CTT was selected, demonstrating that morbidity was not different between the OTC and CTT groups. Patients with increased signs of ICN do worse which was reflected by increased morbidity in both groups. The study demonstrates that not only the cosmesis is not a concern for patients undergoing OTC, but neither is the ArM a concern, equalling that of a simple CTT.

Keywords : Morbidity; Spine [surgery]; Thoracotomy [methods]; Video-assisted surgery [methods].

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