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In severe destructive spinal infections, with neurological deficit, progressive deformity or uncontrolled sepsis, the mainstay of treatment is surgical debridement with anterior and posterior stabilisation. We retrospectively reviewed 14 patients (11 Male 3 female) with a mean age of 63 (range 38 to 85) who underwent anterior only surgery consisting of an expandable vertebral body cage and a ventrolateral locking plate (Synthes). Organisms included Tuberculosis (7), Staphylococcus (5), E-Coli (1) and Pseudomonas (1). Radiological and functional outcomes were assessed upto 18 months post surgery. Cobb angles were used to measure angular deformity.

Good early results in terms of safety, resolution of pain, control of deformity and improvement of neurological deficits was observed. Average blood loss was 633mls (range 300mls to 1500mls) with a mean deformity correction of 23 degrees. Post operative radiological assessment showed the cages to be relatively stable in the under 80 yrs groups (mean loss of correction 15 %). In elderly patients (> 80 yrs) there was significant subsidence leading to a loss of correction (mean 52%) which required stabilisation using vertebral body cement augmentation. In one case, there was implant displacement requiring revision and additional posterior stabilisation. 11 patients showed significant improvement in neurology and 3 patients remained neurologically normal ie Frankel E.

We propose assessing severe spinal infections using the spinal trilogy of neurological deficit, deformity and sepsis. Anterior stabilisation using an expandable cage and locking plate alone or with additional vertebral body cement augmentation in elderly patients provides a satisfactory solution for severe destructive spinal infections. It preserves the posterior column and reduces the need for further posterior surgery.

Correspondence should be addressed to Editorial Secretary Mr ML Costa or Assistant Editorial Secretary Mr B.J. Ollivere at BOA, 35–43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PE, England; Email: mattcosta@hotmail.com or ben@ollivere.co.uk