OBJECTIVE: This study was conducted to evaluate the kinematic response of late fusion results for cervical spine discectomies with and without bone grafting. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fifteen Barbados Black Belly sheep underwent sham operations (Group A, n = 5), C2-C3 discectomies only (Group B, n = 5), and C2-C3 discectomies with autologous iliac bone grafting (Group C, n = 5). Ten months after surgery, the animals were killed. Fresh ligamentous spines (C1-C5) were subjected to the relevantly applied loads through a loading frame attached to the C1. Each vertebra (from C2 to C4) was attached with a set of three infrared light-emitting diodes to record the spatial location relating to each load application using a Selspot II system (Selcom Selective Electronics, Inc., Valdese, NC). The load-deformation data of the C2-C3 and C3-C4 motion segments were recorded and analyzed for the three groups. RESULTS: At the C2-C3 motion segment, the results indicated that Group B displayed larger motion ranges of rotation and lateral bending loads than did the other two groups. Significantly larger motion ranges of rotation loads were found in Group B than in Group C (P < 0.05, for both comparisons). In contrast, Group C had the smallest motion ranges of flexion, lateral bending, and rotation loads. At the C3-C4 motion segment, both groups that had undergone discectomies had a significantly larger motion range of flexion load corn pared with Group A (P < 0.05, for both comparisons). A significant increase in the motion range of right axial rotation was found in Group B (P < 0.05), but not in Group C, compared with Group A. Group B exhibited larger motion ranges responding to all six tested loads than did Group C. CONCLUSION: The results indicate that anterior fusion after C2-C3 cervical discectomies, regardless of the presence or absence of bone grafting, decreases the motion range of flexion load at the C2-C3 motion segment, and contrary data were seen at the C3-C4 motion segment. For axial rotation loads, discectomies without bone grafting resulted in increased motion ranges of both C2-C3 and C3-C4 motion segments whereas discectomies with bone grafting did not. The data may have clinical relevance regarding the role of bone grafting in cases of cervical spine disease.
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