Is there a variance in complication types associated with ALIF approaches?

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:2991–3004

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a well-established alternative to posterior-based interbody fusion techniques, with approach variations, such as retroperitoneal, transperitoneal, open, and laparoscopic well described. Variable rates of complications for each approach have been enumerated in the literature. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the comparative rates of complications across approach type.

Methods A systematic review of search databases PubMed, Google Scholar, and OVID Medline was made to identify studies related to complication-associated ALIF. PRISMA guidelines were utilised for this review. Meta-analysis was used to compare intraoperative and postoperative complications with ALIF for each approach.

Results A total of 4575 studies were identified, with 5728 patients across 31 studies included for review following application of inclusion and exclusion criteria. Meta-analysis demonstrated the transperitoneal approach resulted in higher rates of retrograde ejaculation (RE) (p < 0.001; CI = 0.05–0.21) and overall rates of complications (p = 0.05; CI = 0.00–0.23). Rates of RE were higher at the L5/S1 intervertebral level. Rates of vessel injury were not significantly higher in either approach method (p = 0.89; CI = − 0.04–0.07). Rates of visceral injury did not appear to be related to approach method. Laparoscopic approaches resulted in shorter inpatient stays (p = 0.01).

Conclusion Despite the transperitoneal approach being comparatively underpowered, its use appears to result in a significantly higher rate of intraoperative and postoperative complications, although confounders including use of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and spinal level should be considered. Laparoscopic approaches resulted in shorter hospital stays; however, its steep learning curve and longer operative time have deterred surgeons from its widespread adaptation.

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