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Anterior instrumentation is an established method of correcting King I adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Posterior segmental pedicle screw instrumentation, with its more powerful corrective force over hooks, could offer significant advantages. The purpose of our study is to compare the results of anterior instrumentation versus segmental pedicle screw instrumentation in adolescent idiopathic thoracolumbar scoliosis. A retrospective analysis was conducted on 36 consecutive female patients with adolescent idiopathic thoracolumbar scoliosis who had surgery from December 1997. All had a minimum of two year follow-up. Eleven patients had posterior surgery performed on them.

Mean age at surgery was similar between both groups. Length of surgery was significantly shorter in the posterior group (189 minutes versus 272 minutes). Length of hospital stay was shorter in the posterior group (6.2 days versus eight days). Estimated blood loss, duration of analgesia, and ICU stay did not differ significantly between the two groups. No complications were encountered in both groups at latest follow-up. The magnitudes and flexibility of the thoracolumbar curves did not differ significantly between the two groups. The number of levels in the major curve was also similar between the groups. Fusion levels were shorter in the anterior group (mean 4.1 versus 5.0). The percentage correction of scoliosis was similar between the two groups at all stages of follow-up, being 74% at one week post-surgery, 70% at six months post-surgery, 68% at one year post-surgery and latest follow-up in the anterior group; and 71% at one week post-surgery, 67% at six months post-surgery, 68% at one year post-surgery, and 67% at latest follow-up in the posterior group.

Thoracolumbar sagittal alignment at T11 to L2 was maintained for both groups throughout the follow-up period. The incidence of proximal junctional kyphosis was higher in the posterior group (p < 0.01).

In conclusion, surgical correction of both the frontal and sagittal plane deformity are comparable to anterior instrumentation. Shorter length of surgery and hospital stay are the potential benefits of posterior surgery. Posterior segmental pedicle screw instrumentation offers significant advantage, and is a viable alternative to standard anterior instrumentation in idiopathic thoracolumbar scoliosis.

Correspondence should be addressed to Jeremy C T Fairbank at The Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Windmill Road, Headington, Oxford OX7 7LD, UK