OLIF versus ALIF: Which is the better surgical approach for degenerative lumbar disease?

European Spine Journal (2023) 32:689–699

The aim of this study was to compare the clinical and radiographical outcomes between OLIF and ALIF in treating lumbar degenerative diseases.

Methods We searched PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library for relevant studies. Changes in disc height (DH), segmental lordosis angle (SLA), lumbar lordosis (LL), visual analogue scale (VAS) score, and Oswestry disability index (ODI) between baseline and final follow-up, along with other important surgical outcomes, were assessed and analysed. Data on the global fusion rate and main complications were collected and compared.

Results Approximately, 2041 patients from 36 studies were included, consisting of 1057 patients who underwent OLIF and 984 patients who underwent ALIF. The results reveal no significant difference in DH, SLA, VAS score, and ODI between the two groups (all P > 0.05). The operation time, estimated blood loss, and length of hospital stay were also comparable between the two groups. Over 90% of the fusion rate was achieved in both groups. The OLIF group showed a higher complication rate than the ALIF group (OLIF 18.83% vs ALIF 7.32%).

Conclusions OLIF leads to a higher complication rate, with the most notable complication being cage subsidence. Both OLIF and ALIF are effective treatments for degenerative lumbar diseases and have similar therapeutic effects. ALIF was expected to be more expensive for patients because of the necessity of involving vascular surgeons.