Review of Risks and Complications of Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF)

Surg Neurol Int 2019;10:237

Extreme lateral interbody fusions (XLIF) and Minimally Invasive (MIS) XLIF were developed to limit the vascular injuries associated with anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), and minimize the muscular/ soft tissue trauma attributed to transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF), and posterolateral lumbar fusion (PLF).

Methods: Nevertheless, XLIF/MIS XLIF pose significant additional risks and complications that include; multiple nerve injuries (e.g. lumbar plexus, ilioinguinal, iliohypogastric, genitofemoral, lateral femoral cutaneous, and subcostals (to the anterior abdominal muscles: abdominal oblique), and sympathectomy), major vascular injuries, bowel perforations/postoperative ileus, seromas, pseudarthrosis, subsidence, and reoperations.

Results: The risks of neural injury with XLIF/MIS XLIF (up to 30-40%) are substantially higher than for TLIF, PLIF, PLF, and ALIF. These neural injuries included: lumbar plexus injuries (13.28%); new sensory deficits (0-75% (21.7%-40%); permanent 62.5%); motor deficits (0.7-33.6%-40%); iliopsoas weakness (9%-31%: permanent 5%), anterior thigh/groin pain (12.5-34%), and sympathectomy (4%-12%). Additional non-neurological complications included; subsidence (10.3%-13.8%), major vascular injuries (0.4%), bowel perforations, recurrent seroma, malpositioning of the XLIF cages, a 45% risk of cage-overhang, pseudarthrosis (7.5%), and failure to adequately decompress stenosis. In one study, reviewing 20 publications and involving 1080 XLIF patients, the authors observed “Most (XLIF) studies are limited by study design, sample size, and potential conflicts of interest.”

Conclusion: Many new neurological deficits and other adverse events/complications are attributed to MIS XLIF/ XLIF. Shouldn’t these significant risk factors be carefully taken into consideration before choosing to perform MIS XLIF/XLIF?