Journal of Neurotrauma
To cite this article:
Julio C. Furlan, Vanessa Noonan, David W. Cadotte and Michael G. Fehlings. Journal of Neurotrauma. August 2011, 28(8): 1371-1399. doi:10.1089/neu.2009.1147.
Published in Volume: 28 Issue 8: July 25, 2011
Online Ahead of Print: March 4, 2010
Online Ahead of Editing: December 14, 2009
While the recommendations for spine surgery in specific cases of acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) are well recognized, there is considerable uncertainty regarding the role of the timing of surgical decompression of the spinal cord in the management of patients with SCI. Given this, we sought to critically review the literature regarding the pre-clinical and clinical evidence on the potential impact of timing of surgical decompression of the spinal cord on outcomes after traumatic SCI. The primary literature search was performed using MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases. A secondary search strategy incorporated articles referenced in prior meta-analyses and systematic and nonsystematic review articles. Two reviewers independently assessed every study with regard to eligibility, level of evidence, and study quality. Of 198 abstracts of pre-clinical studies, 19 experimental studies using animal SCI models fulfilled our inclusion and exclusion criteria. Despite some discrepancies in the results of those pre-clinical studies, there is evidence for a biological rationale to support early decompression of the spinal cord. Of 153 abstracts of clinical studies, 22 fulfilled the inclusion and exclusion criteria. While the vast majority of the clinical studies were level-4 evidence, there were two studies of level-2b evidence. The quality assessment scores varied from 7 to 25 with a mean value of 12.41. While 2 of 22 clinical studies assessed feasibility and safety, 20 clinical studies examined efficacy of early surgical intervention to stabilize and align the spine and to decompress the spinal cord; the most common definitions of early operation used 24 and 72 h after SCI as timelines. A number of studies indicated that patients who undergo early surgical decompression can have similar outcomes to patients who received a delayed decompressive operation. However, there is evidence to suggest that early surgical intervention is safe and feasible and that it can improve clinical and neurological outcomes and reduce health care costs. Based on the current clinical evidence using a Delphi process, an expert panel recommended that early surgical intervention should be considered in all patients from 8 to 24 h following acute traumatic SCI.