Systematic Review of Anterior Interbody Fusion Techniques for Single- and Double-Level Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

Wilco C. H. Jacobs*, Paul C. Willems, Moyo C. Kruyt, Jacques van Limbeek, Patricia G. Anderson, Paul Pavlov, Ronald Bartels, F. Cumhur Oner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Study Design. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Objective. To determine which technique of anterior cervical inter-body fusion (ACIF) gives the best outcome in patients with cervical degenerative disc disease. Summary of Background Data. The number of surgical techniques for decompression and ACIF as treatment for cervical degenerative disc disease has increased rapidly, but the rationale for the choice between different techniques remains unclear. Methods. From a comprehensive search, we selected randomized studies that compared anterior cervical decompression and ACIF techniques, in patients with chronic single-or double-level degenerative disc disease or disc herniation. Risk of bias was assessed using the criteria of the Cochrane back review group. Results. Thirty-three studies with 2267 patients were included. The major treatments were discectomy alone and addition of an ACIF procedure (graft, cement, cage, and plates). At best, there was very low-quality evidence of little or no difference in pain relief between the techniques. We found moderate quality evidence for few secondary outcomes. Odom's criteria were not different between iliac crest autograft and a metal cage (risk ratio [RR]: 1.11; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.99-1.24). Bone graft produced more fusion than discectomy (RR: 0.22; 95% CI: 0.17-0.48). Complication rates were not different between discectomy and iliac crest autograft (RR: 1.56; 95% CI: 0.71-3.43). Low-quality evidence was found that iliac crest autograft results in better fusion than a cage (RR: 1.87; 95% CI: 1.10-3.17); but more complications (RR: 0.33; 95% CI: 0.12-0.92). Conclusion. When fusion of the motion segment is considered to be the working mechanism for pain relief and functional improvement, iliac crest autograft appears to be the golden standard. When ignoring fusion rates and looking at complication rates, a cage as a golden standard has a weak evidence base over iliac crest autograft, but not over discectomy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E950-E960
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2011


  • degenerative disc disease
  • cervical spine
  • interbody fusion
  • meta-analysis

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