Reoperation rates after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion versus posterior cervical foraminotomy: A propensity-matched analysis

Daniel Lubelski, Andrew T. Healy, Michael P. Silverstein, Kalil G. Abdullah, Nicolas R. Thompson, K. Daniel Riew, Michael P. Steinmetz, Edward C. Benzel, Thomas E. Mroz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Background context Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and posterior cervical foraminotomy (PCF) are both used to surgically treat patients with cervical radiculopathy and have been shown to have similar outcomes. Nonetheless, ACDF has become increasingly more commonplace compared with PCF, in part because of a pervasive belief that PCF has a higher incidence of required reoperations. Purpose To determine the reoperation rate at the index level of ACDF versus PCF 2 years postoperatively. Study design A retrospective case-control. Patient sample All patients that underwent ACDF and PCF for radiculopathy (excluding myelopathy indications) between January 2005 and December 2011. Outcome measures Revision surgery within 2 years, at the index level, was recorded. Methods Propensity score analysis between the ACDF and PCF groups was done, matching for age, gender, race, body mass index, tobacco use, median income and insurance status, primary surgeon, level of surgery, surgery duration, and length of hospital stay. Results Seven hundred ninety patients met the inclusion/exclusion criteria, including 627 ACDF and 163 PCF. Before propensity matching, the PCF group was found to be significantly older and more likely to be male. After matching, there were no significant differences between groups for any baseline characteristics. Reoperation rate at the index level was 4.8% for the ACDF group and 6.4% for the PCF group (p=.7) within 2 years of the initial surgery. Using equivalence testing, based on an a priori null hypothesis that a clinically meaningful difference between the two groups would be 5%, we found that the absolute difference of 1.6% was significantly (p=.01) less than our hypothesized difference. Conclusions This study demonstrates that even after accounting for patient demographics, operative characteristics, and primary surgeon, there are no significant differences in 2-year reoperation rates at the index level between ACDF and PCF. The reoperation rates are statistically equivalent. Thus, spine surgeons can operate via the posterior approach without putting patients at increased risk for revision surgery at the index level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1277-1283
Number of pages7
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes



  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Foraminal stenosis
  • Posterior cervical foraminotomy
  • Propensity matching
  • Reoperation rates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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