Retrograde ejaculation following anterior lumbar surgery: a systematic review and pooled analysis

J Neurosurg Spine 35:427–436, 2021

The present systematic review and pooled analysis aims to assess the incidence and risk factors for the development of retrograde ejaculation (RE) following first-time open anterior lumbar surgery.

METHODS A systematic MEDLINE review via PubMed was performed, identifying 130 clinical papers relating to the topic. Eighteen publications were selected according to predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria and were used to determine the incidence of RE. Only the publications that provided data on surgical risk factors present specifically in the men in the study were included in the analysis of risk factors.

RESULTS Of the 2503 men included, there were 57 reported events of RE (2.3%). Of the cases for which long-term data were provided, 45.8% had resolved by final follow-up. There was a statistically significant increased risk associated with a transperitoneal as opposed to a retroperitoneal approach (8.6% vs 3.2%), as well as with the use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) in anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) as opposed to ALIF with bone graft or arthroplasty in controls (5.0% vs 1.8%). However, when excluding from analysis the patients operated on prior to the FDA’s 2008 warning that commented on the drug’s neuroinflammatory properties, there was no significant difference in rates of RE in patients receiving rhBMP-2 versus the control group (2.4% vs 2.5%). There was no significant difference in risk based on single- versus multilevel procedure or on ALIF versus arthroplasty.

CONCLUSIONS In a pooled analysis of currently published data on men undergoing first-time open anterior lumbar surgery, this study found an overall incidence of RE of 2.3%. Nearly half of these patients recovered, reporting resolution of symptoms anywhere between 3 months and 48 months. Analysis of risk factors was limited by a paucity of published literature segregating data by sex. However, there was an increased risk associated with rhBMP-2 only when including data collected prior to the FDA warning on its detrimental properties. The authors therefore posit that the risk of RE is probably overestimated in the literature, given that the vast majority of the data available were collected prior to this warning and given the subsequent implementation of precautions when handling rhBMP-2.

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