Fluoride Action Network


Thoracic ossification of ligamentum flavum (OLF) caused by skeletal fluorosis is rare. Only six patients had been reported in the English literature. This study reports findings from the first clinical series of this disease. This was a retrospective study of patients with thoracic OLF due to skeletal fluorosis who underwent surgical management at the authors’ hospital between 1993 and 2003. Diagnosis of skeletal fluorosis was made based on the epidemic history, clinical symptoms, radiographic findings, and urinalysis. En bloc laminectomy decompression of the involved thoracic levels was performed in all cases. Cervical open door decompression or lumbar laminectomy decompression was performed if relevant stenosis was present. Neurological status was evaluated preoperatively, at the third day postoperatively, and at the end point of follow-up using the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scoring system of motor function of the lower extremities. A total of 23 cases were enrolled, 16 (69.6%) males and 7 (30.4%) females, age ranging from 42 to 72 years (mean 54.8 years). All patients came from a high-fluoride area, and 22 (95.7%) had dental fluorosis. Medical imaging showed OLF together with ossification of many ligaments and interosseous membranes, including interosseous membranes of the forearm (18/23 patients 78.3%), leg (14/23 patients 60.9%), and ribs (11/23 patients 47.8%). OLF was classified into five types based on MRI findings: localized (4/23 patients 17.4%), continued (12/23 patients 52.2%), skip (3/23 patients 13.0%), combining with anterior pressure (2/23 patients 8.7%), and combining with cervical and/or lumbar stenosis (2/23 patients, 8.7%). Urinalysis showed a markedly high urinary fluoride level in 14 of 23 patients (60.9%). Patients were followed up for an average duration of 4 years, 5 months. Paired t-test showed that the JOA score was slightly but nonsignificantly increased relative to preoperative measurement 3 days after surgery (P = 0.0829) and significantly increased at the end of follow-up (P = 0.0001). In conclusion, Fluorosis can cause ossification of thoracic ligamentum flavum, as well as other ligaments. Comparing with other OLF series, a larger number of spinal segments were involved. The diagnosis of skeletal fluorosis was made by the epidemic history, clinical symptom, imaging study findings, and urinalysis. En bloc laminectomy decompression was an effective method.