Midterm outcome after a microsurgical unilateral approach for bilateral decompression of lumbar degenerative spondylolisthesis

J Neurosurg Spine 16:68–76, 2012. DOI: 10.3171/2011.7.SPINE11222

The aim of this study was to evaluate the results and effectiveness of bilateral decompression via a unilateral approach in the treatment of lumbar degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS).

Methods. Operations were performed in 84 selected patients (mean age 62.1 ± 10 years) with lumbar DS between the years 2001 and 2008. The selection criteria included lower back pain with or without sciatica, neurogenic claudication that had not improved after at least 6 months of conservative treatment, and a radiological diagnosis of Grade I DS and lumbar stenosis. Decompression was performed at 3 levels in 15.5%, 2 levels in 54.8%, and 1 level in 29.7% of the patients with 1 level of spondylolisthesis. All patients were followed up for at least 24 months. For clinical evaluations, a visual analog scale, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and Neurogenic Claudication Outcome Score (NCOS) were used. Spinal canal size and (neutral and dynamic) slip percentages were measured both pre- and postoperatively.

Results. Neutral and dynamic slip percentages did not significantly change after surgery (p = 0.67 and p = 0.63, respectively). Spinal canal size increased from 50.6 ± 5.9 to 102.8 ± 9.5 mm2 (p < 0.001). The ODI decreased significantly in both the early and late follow-up evaluations, and good or excellent results were obtained in 64 cases (80%). The NCOS demonstrated significant improvement in the late follow-up results (p < 0.001). One patient (1.2%) required secondary fusion during the follow-up period.

Conclusions. Postoperative clinical improvement and radiological findings clearly demonstrated that the unilateral approach for treating 1-level and multilevel lumbar spinal stenosis with DS is a safe, effective, and minimally invasive method in terms of reducing the need for stabilization.