Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion Versus Posterolateral Fusion Alone in the Treatment of Grade 1 Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Neurosurgery 93:186–197, 2023

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) and posterolateral fusion (PLF) alone are two operations performed to treat degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis. To date, it is unclear which operation leads to better outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: To compare TLIF vs PLF alone regarding long-term reoperation rates, complications, and patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) in patients with degenerative grade 1 spondylolisthesis.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study using prospectively collected data between October 2010 and May 2021 was undertaken. Inclusion criteria were patients aged 18 years or older with grade 1 degenerative spondylolisthesis undergoing elective, single-level, open posterior lumbar decompression and instrumented fusion with ≥1-year follow-up. The primary exposure was presence of TLIF vs PLF without interbody fusion. The primary outcome was reoperation. Secondary outcomes included complications, readmission, discharge disposition, return to work, and PROMs at 3 and 12 months postoperatively, including Numeric Rating Scale-Back/Leg and Oswestry Disability Index. Minimum clinically important difference of PROMs was set at 30% improvement from baseline.

RESULTS: Of 546 patients, 373 (68.3%) underwent TLIF and 173 underwent (31.7%) PLF. Median follow-up was 6.1 years (IQR = 3.6-9.0), with 339 (62.1%) >5-year follow-up. Multivariable logistic regression showed that patients undergoing TLIF had a lower odds of reoperation compared with PLF alone (odds ratio = 0.23, 95% CI = 0.54-0.99, P = .048). Among patients with >5-year follow-up, the same trend was seen (odds ratio = 0.15, 95% CI = 0.03-0.95, P = .045). No differences were observed in 90-day complications (P = .487) and readmission rates (P = .230) or minimum clinically important difference PROMs.

CONCLUSION: In a retrospective cohort study from a prospectively maintained registry, patients with grade 1 degenerative spondylolisthesis undergoing TLIF had significantly lower long-term reoperation rates than those undergoing PLF.