Postoperative Delayed Cervical Palsies: Understanding the Etiology

Ryan F. Planchard, Patrick R. Maloney, Grant W. Mallory, Ross C. Puffer, Robert J. Spinner, Ahmad Nassr, Jeremy L. Fogelson, William E. Krauss, Michelle J. Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Study Design Retrospective study. Objective This study reviews 1,768 consecutive cervical decompressions with or without instrumented fusion to identify patient-specific and procedural risk factors significantly correlated with the development of delayed cervical palsy (DCP). Methods Baseline demographic and procedural information was collected from the electronic medical record. Particular attention was devoted to reviewing each chart for recognized risk factors of postsurgical inflammatory neuropathy: autoimmune disease, blood transfusions, diabetes, and smoking. Results Of 1,669 patients, 56 (3.4%) developed a DCP. Although 71% of the palsies involved C5, 55% of palsies were multimyotomal and 18% were bilateral. Significant risk factors on univariate analysis included age (p = 0.0061, odds ratio [OR] = 1.07, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.008 to 1.050), posterior instrumented fusion (p < 0.0001, OR = 3.30, 95% CI 1.920 to 5.653), prone versus semisitting/sitting position (p = 0.0036, OR = 3.58, 95% CI 1.451 to 11.881), number of operative levels (p < 0.0001, OR = 1.42, 95% CI 1.247 to 1.605), intraoperative transfusions (p = 0.0231, OR = 2.57, 95% CI 1.152 to 5.132), and nonspecific autoimmune disease (p = 0.0107, OR = 3.83, 95% CI 1.418 to 8.730). On multivariate analysis, number of operative levels (p = 0.0053, OR = 1.27, 95% CI 1.075 to 1.496) and nonspecific autoimmune disease (p = 0.0416, OR 2.95, 95% CI 1.047 to 7.092) remained significant. Conclusions Although this study partially supports a mechanical etiology in the pathogenesis of a DCP, we also describe a notable correlation with autoimmune risk factors. Bilateral and multimyotomal involvement provides additional support that some DCPs may result from an inflammatory response and thus an underlying multifactorial etiology for this complication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-583
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Spine Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • autoimmune
  • cervical spine
  • etiology
  • inflammatory neuropathy
  • postoperative C5 palsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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