Predictors of outcome in the non-operative management of thoracolumbar and lumbar burst fractures

Patrick W. Hitchon*, Wenzhuan He, Stephen Viljoen, Nader S. Dahdaleh, Rajinder Kumar, Jennifer Noeller, James Torner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Aim. Burst fractures without neurological deficit are often treated successfully without surgery. A subgroup may fail non-operative treatment owing to pain, and opt for surgery.The following review was conducted to identify predictors of success or failure in the non-operative treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures. Methods. A cohort of 60 patients with T11-L4 thoracolumbar burst fractures were treated non-operatively, with bed rest and bracing until the pain abated sufficiently to allow mobilization. Patients were followed prospectively for a mean ± SD of 12 ± 14 months, and their data were reviewed retrospectively. Results. Fifty-one patients successfully completed non-operative treatment. Owing to intractable pain in nine, surgery was undertaken. Ages in the non-operative and operative groups were 46 ± 18 and 68 ± 15 years respectively (p = 0.002). The residual canal and angulation at the site of the fracture were 63 ± 12% and 1.6 ± 8.4° in the non-operative group and 47 ± 15% and 6.6 ± 13.6° in the surgical group (p = 0.001 and 0.149 between groups, respectively). Regression analysis of age, gender, angulation, and residual canal showed that only age (OR, 1.099; 95% CI, 1.022-1.183; p = 0.011) and residual canal (OR, 0.795; 95% CI, 0.642-0.985; p = 0.035) were significant predictors of failure, ultimately undergoing surgery. Conclusion. Non-surgical treatment was more likely to prove sufficient in patients aged 46 ± 18 years, and residual canal of 63 ± 12%, than in older patients with ages of 68 ± 15, and canal of 47 ± 15%. The latter group was more likely to fail, undergoing surgery because of pain or instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-657
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Burst
  • Fractures
  • Spinal instrumentation
  • Spine fracture
  • Thoracolumbar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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