To evaluate the efficacy of three surgical approaches for the treatment of cervicothoracic tuberculosis. This is a multicenter retrospective study. We analyzed 74 patients with cervicothoracic tuberculosis who were treated in six institutions between January 2000 and January 2015. There were 37 male and 37 female patients, with an average age of 24 years (range, 5-62 years). The operative method was selected according to the indications. A total of 33 patients underwent one-stage anterior surgery (group A); 16 underwent a combined anterior and posterior surgery (group B) and 25 underwent one-stage posterior surgery (group C). Clinical outcomes, laboratory indexes, and radiological results were analyzed. All cases were followed up for approximately 36-96 months post-surgery (average, 39 months). At the last follow-up, patients in all three groups had achieved bone fusion, with pain relief and neurological recovery. No major vessel and nerve injuries were found during the operation. There were significant differences before and after treatment for visual analogue scale (VAS), neck disability index (NDI), and Japanese Orthopedic Association (JOA) score (P < 0.001). Three surgical strategies significantly improved kyphosis (P < 0.001). The choice of operation for cervicothoracic tuberculosis should be selected based on the pathological changes, scope, and general physical condition of the patient. The indication for a posterior approach is narrow and it should be used selectively. The combined anterior and posterior approach involved a longer operating time, larger blood loss, and greater trauma, and also required a higher level of surgical skill. Therefore, the indications for this approach should be strictly controlled. Anterior approach surgery for the treatment of cervicothoracic tuberculosis showed excellent efficacy and fewer complications. © 2019 The Authors. Orthopaedic Surgery published by Chinese Orthopaedic Association and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.