Neurosurgical Focus Oct 2011 / Vol. 31 / No. 4 / Page E4
Recently, the minimally invasive, lateral retroperitoneal, transpsoas approach to the thoracolumbar spinal column has been described by various authors. This is known as the minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion. The purpose of this study is to elucidate the approach-related morbidity associated with the minimally invasive transpsoas approach to the lumbar spine. To date, there have been only a couple of reports regarding the morbidity of the transpsoas muscle approach.
A nonrandomized, prospective study utilizing a self-reported patient questionnaire was conducted between January 2006 and June 2008 at Northwestern University. Data were collected in 53 patients with a follow-up period ranging from 6 months to 3.5 years. Only 2 patients were lost to follow-up.
Thirty-six percent (19 of 53) of patients reported subjective hip flexor weakness, 25% (13 of 53) anterior thigh numbness, and 23% (12 of 53) anterior thigh pain. However, 84% of the 19 patients reported complete resolution of their subjective hip flexor weakness by 6 months, and most experienced improved strength by 8 weeks. Of those reporting anterior thigh numbness and pain, 69% and 75% improved to their baseline function by the 6-month follow-up evaluations, respectively. All patients with self-reported subjective hip flexor weakness underwent examinations during subsequent clinic visits after surgery; however, these examinations did not confirm a motor deficit less than Grade 5. Subset analysis showed that the L3–4 and L4–5 levels were most often affected.
The minimally invasive, transpsoas muscle approach to the lumbar spine has a number of advantages. The data show that a percentage of the patients undergoing the transpsoas approach will have temporary sensory and motor symptoms related to this approach. The majority of the symptoms are thought to be related to psoas muscle inflammation and/or stretch injury to the genitofemoral nerve due to the surgical corridor traversed during the operation. No major injuries to the lumbar plexus were encountered. It is important to educate patients prior to surgery of the possibility of these largely transient symptoms.