Purpose To evaluate changes in the transverse area of deep posterior muscles of the cervical spine 10 years after anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF), in comparison with healthy volunteers. Methods Thirty-one patients (22 males, 9 females, mean age at follow-up 59.3 years, mean follow-up 12.1 years) who had undergone preoperativeMRI and non-instrumented ACDF within levels C3-4 to C5-6 were enrolled. 32 asymptomatic volunteers (17 males, 15 females; mean age, 54.7 years; mean follow-up, 11.7 years) who underwent MRI between 1993 and 1996 served as controls. Follow-up MRI was performed on both patients and control subjects, and the cross-sectional areas of deep posterior muscles were measured digitally at levels C3-4, 4-5, and 5-6. Results The mean total cross-sectional area in the ACDF and control groups was 4,693.6 ± 1,140.9 and 4,825.8 ± 1,048.2 mm 2 in the first MR study (P = 0.63), and 4,616.7 ± 1,086.0 and 5,036.7 ± 1,105.6 mm 2 at followup (P = 0.13). The total cross-sectional area in the ACDF group slightly decreased, while that in the control group increased (-77.1 ± 889.7 vs. 210.9 ± 622.0 mm 2, P = 0.14). The mean change in the cross-sectional area had no significant correlation with clinical symptoms, including neck pain or JOA score. Conclusions ACDF patients did not show a marked decrease in the cross-sectional area of the deep posterior cervical muscles, but as compared with control subjects there was a slight decrease. A decrease in the cross-sectional area of these muscles after ACDF may not result in the axial symptoms as seen in patients treated by posterior surgery.
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