Background: Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament of the spine (OPLL) is characterized by heterotopic bone formation in the posterior longitudinal ligament of the spine. We know that the size and distribution of the ossified lesions in patients with OPLL are different in each case. However, the characteristics of the patients with radiologically severe cervical OPLL remain unknown. Methods: The participants of our study were symptomatic patients with cervical OPLL who were diagnosed by standard radiographs of the cervical spine. Whole-spine CT data and demographic data such as age and sex were obtained from 20 institutions belonging to the Japanese Multicenter Research Organization for Ossification of the Spinal Ligament. According to the number of the levels involved by OPLL, we stratified the patients into two subgroups: severe group (S-group) and non-severe group (NS-group) to delineate the characteristics of radiologically severe patients with cervical OPLL. We also evaluated the most compressed level and the degree of occupying ratio of cervical spinal canal by OPLL at the most compressed level. Results: A total of 234 patients with a mean age of 65 years were recruited. The S-group consisted of 48 patients (21%, 12 females and 36 males) and the NS-group consisted of 92 patients (79%, 22 females and 70 males). The mean age of males in the S-group (68 years old) was significantly higher than that of males in the NS-group (64 years old); however there was no significant difference in the mean age in females between the S-group (69 years old) and the NS-group (66 years old). No significant difference of body mass index, ossification of the nuchal ligament-positivity and presence of diabetes mellitus were found between the S- and the NS-group. Conclusions: It is likely that the manner of extension of cervical OPLL is different between male and female patients.
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