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An Overview of Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (OPLL) and Treatment Options - Spine Center of Texas
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An Overview of Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (OPLL) and Treatment Options

Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament (OPLL) is a condition in which the posterior longitudinal ligament begins to calcify, thickening it and decreasing its flexibility. OPLL happens most often in the Japanese population, is twice as common in men, and tends to affect those between the ages of 50 and 60. 

The disorder occurs in the cervical (neck) region 75% of the time, but can also appear in the thoracic (trunk) or lumbar (low back) areas. The exact cause of OPLL is not clearly defined, although some research suggests a connection to diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis and ossification of the ligamentum flavum. There is currently no standard treatment for OPLL.

The causes of OPLL are poorly understood. Factors such as genetics, lifestyle, environment, and hormonal issues seem to contribute to the development of the ailment. One study also links being schizophrenic as having a higher risk of the occurrence.

Symptoms of OPLL consist of the following:

  • Mild pain
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands
  • An odd sensation that may or may not be present with touch

The symptoms of the condition often become more severe as the condition worsens.

Diagnosing OPLL is accomplished with a physician’s careful history and physical, paying close attention to the individual’s current symptoms. Many people have warning signs of myelopathy (spinal cord injury or inflammation) or radiculopathy (spinal nerve root compression). An MRI, CT scans and X-rays are useful in helping to verify the existence of the ailment.

Treatment for OPLL is dependent on symptoms; if they are not getting worse, then a conservative approach of observation, prescription medications for pain and inflammation, and physical therapy is followed. If signs of myelopathy are present, then the individual may need surgical intervention. Surgical choices to be considered are ACDF, laminectomy with or without fusion, laminoplasty, or anterior cervical corpectomy with fusion.

If you are experiencing hand tingling or numbness and would like find out about our treatment options,  please call us to schedule an appointment.