Anterolateral versus posterior minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion surgery for spondylolisthesis: comparison of outcomes from a global, multicenter study at 12-months follow-up

The Spine Journal 23 (2023) 1494−1505

Several minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion techniques may be used as a treatment for spondylolisthesis to alleviate back and leg pain, improve function and provide stability to the spine. Surgeons may choose an anterolateral or posterior approach for the surgery however, there remains a lack of real-world evidence from comparative, prospective studies on effectiveness and safety with relatively large, geographically diverse samples and involving multiple surgical approaches.

PURPOSE: To test the hypothesis that anterolateral and posterior minimally invasive approaches are equally effective in treating patients with spondylolisthesis affecting one or two segments at 3months follow-up and to report and compare patient reported outcomes and safety profiles between patients at 12-months post-surgery.

DESIGN: Prospective, multicenter, international, observational cohort study.

PATIENT SAMPLE: Patients with degenerative or isthmic spondylolisthesis who underwent 1- or 2-level minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Patient reported outcomes assessing disability (ODI), back pain (VAS), leg pain (VAS) and quality of life (EuroQol 5D-3L) at 4-weeks, 3-months and 12-months follow-up; adverse events up to 12-months; and fusion status at 12-months post-surgery using X-ray and/or CT-scan. The primary study outcome is improvement in ODI score at 3-months. METHODS: Eligible patients from 26 sites across Europe, Latin America and Asia were consecutively enrolled. Surgeons with experience in minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion procedures used, according to clinical judgement, either an anterolateral (ie, ALIF, DLIF, OLIF) or posterior (MIDLF, PLIF, TLIF) approach. Mean improvement in disability (ODI) was compared between groups using ANCOVA with baseline ODI score used as a covariate. Paired t-tests were used to examine change from baseline in PRO for both surgical approaches at each timepoint after surgery. A secondary ANCOVA using a propensity score as a covariate was used to test the robustness of conclusions drawn from the between group comparison.

RESULTS: Participants receiving an anterolateral approach (n=114) compared to those receiving a posterior approach (n=112) were younger (56.9 vs 62.0 years, p <.001), more likely to be employed (49.1% vs 25.0%, p<.001), have isthmic spondylolisthesis (38.6% vs 16.1%, p<.001) and less likely to only have central or lateral recess stenosis (44.9% vs 68.4%, p=.004). There were no statistically significant differences between the groups for gender, BMI, tobacco use, duration of conservative care, grade of spondylolisthesis, or the presence of stenosis. At 3-months follow-up there was no difference in the amount of improvement in ODI between the anterolateral and posterior groups (23.2 § 21.3 vs 25.8 § 19.5, p=.521). There were no clinically meaningful differences between the groups on mean improvement for back- and leg-pain, disability, or quality of life until the 12-months follow-up. Fusion rates of those assessed (n=158; 70% of the sample), were equivalent between groups (anterolateral, 72/88 [81.8%] fused vs posterior, 61/70 [87.1%] fused; p=.390).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with degenerative lumbar disease and spondylolisthesis who underwent minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion presented statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements from baseline up to 12-months follow-up. There were no clinically relevant differences between patients operated on using an anterolateral or posterior approach.