Operative treatment of new onset radiculopathy secondary to combat injury

Scott C. Wagner, Gregory S. Van Blarcum, Daniel G. Kang, Ronald A. Lehman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We set out to describe combat-related spine trauma over a 10-year period, and thereby determine the frequency of new onset radiculopathy secondary to injuries sustained in support of combat operations. We performed a retrospective analysis of a surgical database at three military institutions. Patients undergoing spine surgery following a combat-related injury in Afghanistan or Iraq between July 2003 and July 2013 were evaluated. We identified 105 patients with combat-related (Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom) spine trauma requiring operative intervention. Of these, 15 (14.3%) patients had radiculopathy as their primary complaint after injury. All patients were diagnosed with herniated nucleus pulposus. The average age was 39 years, with 80% injured in Iraq and 20% in Afghanistan. The most common mechanism of injury was mounted improvised explosive device (33%). The cervical spine was most commonly involved (53%), followed by lumbar spine (40%). Average time from injury to surgery was 23.4 months; 53% of patients had continued symptoms following surgery, and two patients had at least one revision surgery. Two patients were medically retired because of their symptoms. This study is the only of its kind evaluating the operative treatment of traumatic radiculopathy following combat-related trauma. We identified a relatively high rate of radiculopathy in these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-140
Number of pages4
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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