We examined the utility of anterior decompression and bony fusion via the extrapleural approach in the treatment of thoracic myelopathy secondary to ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL). Patient outcome and complications were analyzed in 48 patients treated with this procedure, with a follow-up of at least 2 years. The Japanese Orthopaedic Association score was used to evaluate the severity of the thoracic myelopathy, and the recovery rate was used to evaluate the surgical outcome. The outcome, postoperative complications, radiographic evaluations of bony union, and progression of OPLL within the area of anterior decompression were examined. The T3 vertebral body was the highest level to which anterior decompression was applied. The average follow-up period was 57 months with a recovery rate of 56.7% which stabilized 1 year after operation. However, the surgical outcome was less favorable in patients with long-standing myelopathy, extensive OPLL, or thoracic OPLL with coexisting intraspinal ligament ossification. Four patients experienced deterioration of their myelopathy, and seven patients had the postoperative complication of extraspinal leakage of cerebrospinal fluid. The myelopathy was transient in all but one patient. Radiographic studies showed that bony union was achieved and restenosis of the spinal canal due to progression of OPLL within the area of decompression did not occur. We conclude that anterior decompression and bony fusion using the extrapleural approach provides a good outcome and is useful in treating mid- and lower thoracic OPLL when performed carefully at an early stage of disease.
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