Robot-assisted multi-level anterior lumbar interbody fusion: an anatomical study

Acta Neurochirurgica (2018) 160:1891–189

Minimally invasive surgical approaches still provide limited exposure. Access to the L2–L5 intervertebral discs during a single procedure is challenging and often requires repositioning of the patient and adopting an alternative approach.

Objectives Investigate the windows to the L2–L5 intervertebral discs to assess the dimensions of the interbody implants suitable for the procedure and evaluate the feasibility of multi-level lumbar intervertebral disc surgery in robot-assisted surgery (RAS)

Methods Sixteen fresh-frozen cadaveric specimens underwent a retroperitoneal approach to access the L2–L5 intervertebral discs. The L2–L3 to L4–L5 windows were defined as the distance between the left lateral border of the aorta (or nearest common iliac vessel) and the medial border of the psoas, measured in a static state and after gentle medial retraction of the vascular structures. Two living porcine specimens and one cadaveric specimen underwent da Vinci robot-assisted transperitoneal approach to expose the L2–L3 to L4–L5 intervertebral discs and perform multi-level discectomy and interbody implant placement.

Results The L2–L3 to L4–L5 intervertebral disc windows significantly increased from a static to a retracted state (p < 0.05). The mean L2–L3, L3–L4, and L4–L5 windows measured respectively 20.1, 21.6, and 19.6 mm in the static state, and 27.2, 30.9, and 30.3 mm after gentle vascular retraction. The intervertebral windows from L2–L3 to L4–L5 were successfully exposed through an anterior transperitoneal approach with the da Vinci robot on the cadaveric and living porcine specimens, and interbody implants were inserted.

Conclusion RAS appears to be feasible for a mini-invasive multi-level lumbar intervertebral disc surgery. The RAS procedure, longer and more expensive than conventional MIS approaches, should be reserved for elective patients.