Retrospective evaluation of the validity of the Thoracolumbar Injury Classification System in 458 consecutively treated patients

Andrei F. Joaquim*, Michael D. Daubs, Brandon D. Lawrence, Darrel S. Brodke, Fernando Cendes, Helder Tedeschi, Alpesh A. Patel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background context: The Thoracolumbar Injury Classification System (TLICS) system has been developed to improve injury classification and guide surgical decision-making, yet validation of this new system remains sparse. Purpose: This study evaluates the use of the TLICS in a large, consecutive series of patients. Study design/setting: This is a retrospective case series. Patient sample: A total of 458 patients treated for thoracic or lumbar spine trauma between 2000 and 2010 at a single, tertiary medical center were included in this study. Outcome measures: American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) status and crossover from conservative to surgical treatment were measured. Methods: Clinical and radiological data were evaluated, classifying the injuries by ASIA status, the Magerl/AO classification, and the TLICS system. Results: A total of 310 patients (67.6%) was treated conservatively (group 1) and 148 patients (32.3%) were surgically (group 2) treated. All patients in group 1 were ASIA E, except one (ASIA C). In this group, 305 patients (98%) had an AO type A fracture. The TLICS score ranged from 1 to 7 (mean 1.53, median 1). A total of 307/310 (99%) patients matched TLICS treatment recommendation (TLICS≤4), except three with distractive injuries (TLICS 7) initially misdiagnosed. Nine patients (2.9%) were converted to surgical management. In group 2, 105 (70.9%) were ASIA E, whereas 43 (29%) had neurological deficits (ASIA A-D). One hundred and three patients (69.5%) were classified as AO type A, 36 (24.3%) as type B, and 9 (6%) as type C. The TLICS score ranged from 2 to 10 (mean 4.29, median of 2). Sixty-nine patients (46.6%) matched the TLICS recommendation; all discordant patients (53.4%) were treated for stable burst fractures (TLICS=2). No neurological complications occurred in either group. Conclusions: The TLICS recommendation matched treatment in 307/310 patients (99%) in the conservative group. However, in the surgical group, 53.4% of patients did not match TLICS recommendations, all were burst fractures without neurological injury (TLICS=2). The TLICS system can be used to effectively classify thoracolumbar injuries and guide conservative treatment. Inconsistencies, however, remain in the treatment thoracolumbar burst fractures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1760-1765
Number of pages6
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Classification
  • Management
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Spinal fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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