Radiographic comparison of L5–S1 lateral anterior lumbar interbody fusion cage subsidence and displacement by fixation strategy: anterior plate versus integrated screws

J Neurosurg Spine 38:126–130, 2023

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to radiographically compare cage subsidence and displacement between L5–S1 lateral anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) cages secured with an anterior buttress plate and cages secured with integrated screws.

METHODS Consecutive patients who underwent L5–S1 lateral ALIF with supplemental posterior fixation by a single surgeon from June 2016 to January 2021 were reviewed. Radiographs were analyzed and compared between the two groups based on the type of fixation used to secure the L5–S1 lateral ALIF cage: 1) anterior buttress plate or 2) integrated screws. The following measurements at L5–S1 were analyzed on radiographs obtained preoperatively, before discharge, and at latest follow-up: 1) anterior disc height, 2) posterior disc height, and 3) segmental lordosis. Cage subsidence and anterior cage displacement were determined radiographically.

RESULTS One hundred thirty-nine patients (mean age 60.0 ± 14.3 years) were included for analysis. Sixty-eight patients were treated with an anterior buttress plate (mean follow-up 12 ± 5 months), and 71 were treated with integrated screws (mean follow-up 9 ± 3 months). Mean age, sex distribution, preoperative L5–S1 lordosis, preoperative L5–S1 anterior disc height, and preoperative L5–S1 posterior disc height were statistically similar between the two groups. After surgery, the segmental L5–S1 lordosis and L5–S1 anterior disc heights significantly improved for both groups, and each respective measurement was similar between the groups at final follow-up. Posterior disc heights significantly increased after surgery with integrated screws but not with the anterior buttress plate. As such, posterior disc heights were significantly greater at final follow-up for integrated screws. Compared with patients who received integrated screws, significantly more patients who received the anterior buttress plate had cage subsidence cranially through the L5 endplate (20.6% vs 2.8%, p < 0.01), cage subsidence caudally through the S1 endplate (27.9% vs 0%, p < 0.01), and anterior cage displacement (22.1% vs 0%, p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS In this radiographic analysis of 139 patients who underwent lateral L5–S1 ALIF supplemented by posterior fixation, L5–S1 cages secured with an anterior buttress plate demonstrated significantly higher rates of cage subsidence and anterior cage displacement compared with cages secured with integrated screws. While the more durable stability afforded by cages secured with integrated screws suggests that they may be a more viable fixation strategy for L5–S1 lateral ALIFs, there are multiple factors that can contribute to cage subsidence, and, thus, definitive presumption cannot be made that the findings of this study are directly related to the buttress plate.