Short-Term Neck Pain After Posterior Foraminotomy Compared with Anterior Discectomy with Fusion for Cervical Foraminal Radiculopathy: A Secondary Analysis of the FACET Randomized Controlled Trial

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BACKGROUND: Short-term neck pain after posterior cervical foraminotomy (posterior surgery) compared with anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (anterior surgery) treating cervical radiculopathy has only been assessed once, retrospectively, to our knowledge. The aim of this study was to prospectively evaluate the course of neck pain for 6 weeks after both treatments.

METHODS: This is a secondary analysis of the multicenter Foraminotomy ACDF Cost-Effectiveness Trial (FACET), conducted from January 2016 to May 2020. Of 389 patients who had single-level, 1-sided cervical radiculopathy and were screened for eligibility, 265 were randomly assigned to undergo posterior surgery (n = 132) or anterior surgery (n = 133). The primary outcome of the present analysis was neck pain, assessed weekly for 6 weeks using the visual analog scale (VAS), on a scale of 0 to 100. The secondary outcomes were arm pain, neck disability, work ability, quality of life, treatment satisfaction, motor and sensory changes, and hospital length of stay. Data were analyzed with mixed model analysis in intention-to-treat samples using 2-sided 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

RESULTS: In the first postoperative week, the mean VAS for neck pain was 56.2 mm (95% CI, 51.7 to 60.8 mm) after posterior surgery and 46.7 mm (95% CI, 42.2 to 51.2 mm) after anterior surgery. The mean between-group difference was 9.5 mm (95% CI, 3.3 to 15.7 mm), which gradually decreased to 2.3 mm (95% CI, -3.6 to 8.1 mm) at postoperative week 6. As of postoperative week 5, there was no significant difference between groups. Responder analyses confirmed this result. Secondary outcomes showed small differences between groups.

CONCLUSIONS: Insight into the course of neck pain during the first 6 weeks after posterior compared with anterior surgery is provided. Despite initially more neck pain after posterior surgery, patients swiftly improved and, as of postoperative week 5, results similar to those after anterior surgery were observed. Our findings should enable improved patient counseling and enhanced shared decision-making between physicians and patients with cervical radiculopathy, where more neck pain in the first postoperative weeks should be balanced against the benefits of posterior surgery.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic Level I . See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)667-675
Aantal pagina's9
TijdschriftJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery: American Volume
Nummer van het tijdschrift9
StatusPublished - 3-mei-2023

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