A comparison of modern-era anterior lumbar interbody fusion and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion at the lumbosacral junction

J Neurosurg Spine 39:785–792, 2023

Interbody fusion is the primary method for achieving arthrodesis across the lumbosacral junction in the setting of degenerative pathologies, such as spondylosis and spondylolisthesis. Two common techniques are anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) and posterior transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF). In recent years, interbody design and technology have advanced, and most earlier studies comparing ALIF and TLIF did not specifically assess the lumbosacral junction. This study compared changes in radiographic and clinical parameters between patients undergoing modern-era single-level ALIF and minimally invasive surgery (MIS) TLIF at L5–S1.

METHODS Consecutive patients who underwent single-segment L5–S1 ALIF or MIS TLIF performed by the senior authors over a 6-year interval (January 1, 2016–November 30, 2021) were retrospectively reviewed. Upright radiographs were used to determine pre- and postoperative lumbar lordosis, segmental lordosis, disc angle, and neuroforaminal height. Improvements in patient-reported outcome scores (Oswestry Disability Index and SF-36) were also compared.

RESULTS Overall, 108 patients (58 [54%] men, 50 [46%] women; mean [SD] age 57.6 [13.5] years) were included in the study. ALIF was performed in 49 patients, and TLIF was performed in 59 patients. The most common treatment indications were spondylolisthesis (50%, 54/108) and spondylosis (46%, 50/108). The cohorts did not differ in terms of intraoperative (p > 0.99) or postoperative (p = 0.73) complication rates. The mean (SD) hospital length of stay was significantly shorter for patients undergoing TLIF than ALIF (1.3 [0.6] days vs 2.0 [1.4] days, p < 0.001). Both techniques significantly improved L5–S1 segmental lordosis, disc angle, and neuroforaminal height (p ≤ 0.008). ALIF versus TLIF significantly increased mean [SD] segmental lordosis (12.5° [7.3°] vs 2.0° [5.7°], p < 0.001), disc angle (14.8° [5.5°] vs 3.0° [6.1°], p < 0.001), and neuroforaminal height (4.5 [4.6] mm vs 2.4 [3.0] mm, p = 0.008). Improvements in patient-reported outcome parameters and reoperation rates were similar between cohorts.

CONCLUSIONS When treating patients at a single segment across the lumbosacral junction, ALIF resulted in significantly greater increases in segmental lordosis, L5–S1 disc angle, and neuroforaminal height compared with MIS TLIF. Improvements in clinical parameters and reoperation rates were similar between the 2 techniques.

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.

Radiographic comparison of L5–S1 lateral anterior lumbar interbody fusion cage subsidence and displacement by fixation strategy: anterior plate versus integrated screws

J Neurosurg Spine 38:126–130, 2023

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to radiographically compare cage subsidence and displacement between L5–S1 lateral anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) cages secured with an anterior buttress plate and cages secured with integrated screws.

METHODS Consecutive patients who underwent L5–S1 lateral ALIF with supplemental posterior fixation by a single surgeon from June 2016 to January 2021 were reviewed. Radiographs were analyzed and compared between the two groups based on the type of fixation used to secure the L5–S1 lateral ALIF cage: 1) anterior buttress plate or 2) integrated screws. The following measurements at L5–S1 were analyzed on radiographs obtained preoperatively, before discharge, and at latest follow-up: 1) anterior disc height, 2) posterior disc height, and 3) segmental lordosis. Cage subsidence and anterior cage displacement were determined radiographically.

RESULTS One hundred thirty-nine patients (mean age 60.0 ± 14.3 years) were included for analysis. Sixty-eight patients were treated with an anterior buttress plate (mean follow-up 12 ± 5 months), and 71 were treated with integrated screws (mean follow-up 9 ± 3 months). Mean age, sex distribution, preoperative L5–S1 lordosis, preoperative L5–S1 anterior disc height, and preoperative L5–S1 posterior disc height were statistically similar between the two groups. After surgery, the segmental L5–S1 lordosis and L5–S1 anterior disc heights significantly improved for both groups, and each respective measurement was similar between the groups at final follow-up. Posterior disc heights significantly increased after surgery with integrated screws but not with the anterior buttress plate. As such, posterior disc heights were significantly greater at final follow-up for integrated screws. Compared with patients who received integrated screws, significantly more patients who received the anterior buttress plate had cage subsidence cranially through the L5 endplate (20.6% vs 2.8%, p < 0.01), cage subsidence caudally through the S1 endplate (27.9% vs 0%, p < 0.01), and anterior cage displacement (22.1% vs 0%, p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS In this radiographic analysis of 139 patients who underwent lateral L5–S1 ALIF supplemented by posterior fixation, L5–S1 cages secured with an anterior buttress plate demonstrated significantly higher rates of cage subsidence and anterior cage displacement compared with cages secured with integrated screws. While the more durable stability afforded by cages secured with integrated screws suggests that they may be a more viable fixation strategy for L5–S1 lateral ALIFs, there are multiple factors that can contribute to cage subsidence, and, thus, definitive presumption cannot be made that the findings of this study are directly related to the buttress plate.

Preoperative Duration of Symptoms Does Not Affect Outcomes of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Neurosurgery 90:215–220, 2022

Previous studies have examined the impact of preoperative duration of symptoms (DOS) on lumbar spinal surgery outcomes although this has not been explored for anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF).

OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of preoperative DOS on patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) of ALIF with posterior instrumentation.

METHODS: A database was retrospectively reviewed for ALIFs with posterior instrumentation. PROMs recorded at preoperative, 6-wk, 12-wk, 6-mo, and 1-yr postoperative timepoints in- cluded Visual Analog Scale back and leg, Oswestry Disability Index, 12-Item Short-Form Physical Component Score (SF-12 PCS), and PROM Information System physical function. Achievement of minimum clinically important difference (MCID) was determined by com- paring differences in postoperative PROMs from baseline to established values. Patients were grouped based on preoperative DOS into <1-yr and ≥1-yr groups. Differences in PROMs were compared using a t-test, whereas MCID achievement used a χ2 test.

RESULTS: Fifty-three patients were included, with 20 in the <1-yrgroup and 33 in the ≥1-yr group. The most common diagnosis was isthmic spondylolisthesis. No significant preoperative differences were observed in any PROM. DOS groups demonstrated significantly different scores for SF-12 PCS at 6 wk (P = .049). No significant differences in MCID achievement were observed between groups for any PROM.

CONCLUSION: ALIF patients demonstrated similar levels of pain, disability, and physical function regardless of preoperative DOS, except for back pain and physical function at intermittent timepoints. MCID achievement did not differ based on DOS for all outcome measures.

Lymphocele after anterior lumbar interbody fusion: a review of 1322 patients

J Neurosurg Spine 35:722–728, 2021

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is an effective surgical modality for many lumbar degenerative pathologies, but a rare and infrequently reported complication is postoperative lymphocele. The goals of the present study were to review a large consecutive series of patients who underwent ALIF at a high-volume institution, estimate the rate of lymphocele occurrence after ALIF, and investigate the outcomes of patients who developed lymphocele after ALIF.

METHODS A retrospective review of the electronic medical record was completed, identifying all patients (≥ 18 years old) who underwent at a minimum a single-level ALIF from 2012 through 2019. Postoperative spinal and abdominal images, as well as radiologist reports, were reviewed for mention of lymphocele. Clinical data were collected and reported. RESULTS A total of 1322 patients underwent a minimum 1-level ALIF. Of these patients, 937 (70.9%) had either postoperative abdominal or lumbar spine images, and the resulting lymphocele incidence was 2.1% (20/937 patients). The mean ± SD age was 67 ± 10.9 years, and the male/female ratio was 1:1. Patients with lymphocele were significantly older than those without lymphocele (66.9 vs 58.9 years, p = 0.006). In addition, patients with lymphocele had a greater number of mean levels fused (2.5 vs 1.8, p < 0.001) and were more likely to have undergone ALIF at L2–4 (95.0% vs 66.4%, p = 0.007) than patients without lymphocele. On subsequent multivariate analysis, age (OR 1.07, 95% CI 1.01– 1.12, p = 0.013), BMI (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.18, p = 0.021), and number of levels fused (OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.05–3.14, p = 0.032) were independent prognosticators of postoperative lymphocele development. Patients with symptomatic lymphocele were successfully treated with either interventional radiology (IR) drainage and/or sclerosis therapy and achieved radiographic resolution. The mean ± SD length of hospital stay was 9.1 ± 5.2 days. Ten patients (50%) were postoperatively discharged to a rehabilitation center: 8 patients (40%) were discharged to home, 1 (5%) to a skilled nursing facility, and 1 (5%) to a long-term acute care facility.

CONCLUSIONS After ALIF, 2.1% of patients were diagnosed with radiographically identified postoperative lymphocele and had risk factors such as increased age, BMI, and number of levels fused. Most patients presented within 1 month postoperatively, and their clinical presentations included abdominal pain, abdominal distension, and/or wound complications. Of note, 25% of identified lymphoceles were discovered incidentally. Patients with symptomatic lymphocele were successfully treated with either IR drainage and/or sclerosis therapy and achieved radiographic resolution.

Is there a variance in complication types associated with ALIF approaches?

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:2991–3004

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a well-established alternative to posterior-based interbody fusion techniques, with approach variations, such as retroperitoneal, transperitoneal, open, and laparoscopic well described. Variable rates of complications for each approach have been enumerated in the literature. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the comparative rates of complications across approach type.

Methods A systematic review of search databases PubMed, Google Scholar, and OVID Medline was made to identify studies related to complication-associated ALIF. PRISMA guidelines were utilised for this review. Meta-analysis was used to compare intraoperative and postoperative complications with ALIF for each approach.

Results A total of 4575 studies were identified, with 5728 patients across 31 studies included for review following application of inclusion and exclusion criteria. Meta-analysis demonstrated the transperitoneal approach resulted in higher rates of retrograde ejaculation (RE) (p < 0.001; CI = 0.05–0.21) and overall rates of complications (p = 0.05; CI = 0.00–0.23). Rates of RE were higher at the L5/S1 intervertebral level. Rates of vessel injury were not significantly higher in either approach method (p = 0.89; CI = − 0.04–0.07). Rates of visceral injury did not appear to be related to approach method. Laparoscopic approaches resulted in shorter inpatient stays (p = 0.01).

Conclusion Despite the transperitoneal approach being comparatively underpowered, its use appears to result in a significantly higher rate of intraoperative and postoperative complications, although confounders including use of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and spinal level should be considered. Laparoscopic approaches resulted in shorter hospital stays; however, its steep learning curve and longer operative time have deterred surgeons from its widespread adaptation.

Functional and radiological outcome of anterior retroperitoneal versus posterior transforaminal interbody fusion in the management of single-level lumbar degenerative disease

Neurosurg Focus 49 (3):E2, 2020

In this study the authors compared the anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) and posterior transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) techniques in a homogeneous group of patients affected by single-level L5–S1 degenerative disc disease (DDD) and postdiscectomy syndrome (PDS). The purpose of the study was to analyze perioperative, functional, and radiological data between the two techniques.

METHODS A retrospective analysis of patient data was performed between 2015 and 2018. Patients were clustered into two homogeneous groups (group 1 = ALIF, group 2 = TLIF) according to surgical procedure. A statistical analysis of clinical perioperative and radiological findings was performed to compare the two groups. A senior musculoskeletal radiologist retrospectively revised all radiological images.

RESULTS Seventy-two patients were comparable in terms of demographic features and surgical diagnosis and included in the study, involving 32 (44.4%) male and 40 (55.6%) female patients with an average age of 47.7 years. The mean follow-up duration was 49.7 months. Thirty-six patients (50%) were clustered in group 1, including 31 (86%) with DDD and 5 (14%) with PDS. Thirty-six patients (50%) were clustered in group 2, including 28 (78%) with DDD and 8 (22%) with PDS. A significant reduction in surgical time (107.4 vs 181.1 minutes) and blood loss (188.9 vs 387.1 ml) in group 1 (p < 0.0001) was observed. No significant differences in complications and reoperation rates between the two groups (p = 0.561) was observed. A significant improvement in functional outcome was observed in both groups (p < 0.001), but no significant difference between the two groups was found at the last follow-up. In group 1, a faster median time of return to work (2.4 vs 3.2 months) was recorded. A significant improvement in L5–S1 postoperative lordosis restoration was registered in the ALIF group (9.0 vs 5.0, p = 0.023).

CONCLUSIONS According to these results, interbody fusion is effective in the surgical management of discogenic pain. Even if clinical benefits were achieved earlier in the ALIF group (better scores and faster return to work), both procedures improved functional outcomes at last follow-up. The ALIF group showed significant reduction of blood loss, shorter surgical time, and better segmental lordosis restoration when compared to the TLIF group. No significant differences in postoperative complications were observed between the groups. Based on these results, the ALIF technique enhances radiological outcome improvement in spinopelvic parameters when compared to TLIF in the management of adult patients with L5–S1 DDD.

The ‘Lumbar Fusion Outcome Score’ (LUFOS): a new practical and surgically oriented grading system for preoperative prediction of surgical outcomes after lumbar spinal fusion in patients with degenerative disc disease and refractory chronic axial low back pain

Neurosurg Review (40) pp 67–81, 2017

In order to evaluate the predictive effect of non-invasive preoperative imaging methods on surgical outcomes of lumbar fusion for patients with degenerative disc disease (DDD) and refractory chronic axial low back pain (LBP), the authors conducted a retrospective review of 45 patients with DDD and refractory LBP submitted to anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) at a single center from 2007 to 2010.

Surgical outcomes – as measured by Visual Analog Scale (VAS/back pain) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) – were evaluated pre-operatively and at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year post-operatively. Linear mixed-effects models were generated in order to identify possible preoperative imaging characteristics (including bone scan/99mTc scintigraphy increased endplate uptake, Modic endplate changes, and disc degeneration graded according to Pfirrmann classification) which may be predictive of long-term surgical outcomes .

After controlling for confounders, a combined score, the Lumbar Fusion Outcome Score (LUFOS), was developed. The LUFOS grading system was able to stratify patients in two general groups (Non-surgical: LUFOS 0 and 1; Surgical: LUFOS 2 and 3) that presented significantly different surgical outcomes in terms of estimated marginal means of VAS/back pain (p = 0.001) and ODI (p = 0.006) beginning at 3 months and continuing up to 1 year of follow-up.

In conclusion, LUFOS has been devised as a new practical and surgically oriented grading system based on simple key parameters from non-invasive preoperative imaging exams (magnetic resonance imaging/MRI and bone scan/99mTc scintigraphy) which has been shown to be highly predictive of surgical outcomes of patients undergoing lumbar fusion for treatment for refractory chronic axial LBP.

Outcomes of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery Based on Indication: A Prospective Study

Outcomes of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery Based on Indication- A Prospective Study

Neurosurgery 76:7–24, 2015

There is limited information on clinical outcomes after anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) based on the indications for surgery.

OBJECTIVE: To compare the clinical and radiological outcomes of ALIF for each surgical indication.

METHODS: This prospective clinical study included 125 patients who underwent ALIF over a 2-year period. The patients were evaluated preoperatively and postoperatively. Outcome measures included the Short Form-12, Oswestry Disability Index, Visual Analog Scale, and Patient Satisfaction Index.

RESULTS: After a mean follow-up of 20 months, the clinical condition of the patients was significantly better than their preoperative status across all indications. A total of 108 patients had a Patient Satisfaction Index score of 1 or 2, indicating a successful clinical outcome in 86%. Patients with degenerative disk disease (with and without radiculopathy), spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis had the best clinical response to ALIF, with statistically significant improvement in the Short Form-12, Oswestry Disability Index, and Visual Analog Scale. Failed posterior fusion and adjacent segment disease showed statistically significant improvement in all of these clinical outcome scores, although the mean changes in the Short Form-12 Mental Component Summary, Oswestry Disability Index, and Visual Analog Scale (back pain) were lower. The overall radiological fusion rate was 94.4%. Superior radiological outcomes (fusion .90%) were observed in patients with degenerative disk disease (with and without radiculopathy), spondylolisthesis, and failed posterior fusion, whereas in adjacent segment disease, it was 80%.

CONCLUSION: ALIF is an effective treatment for degenerative disk disease (with and without radiculopathy) and spondylolisthesis. Although results were promising for scoliosis, failed posterior fusion, and adjacent segment disease, further studies are necessary to establish the effectiveness of ALIF in these conditions.