Subsidence after lateral lumbar interbody fusion using a 3D-printed porous titanium interbody cage

J Neurosurg Spine 37:663–669, 2022

Cage subsidence is a well-known phenomenon after lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF), occurring in 10%–20% of cases. A 3D-printed porous titanium (pTi) cage has a stiffness that mimics the modulus of elasticity of native vertebrae, which reduces stress at the bone-hardware interface, lowering the risk of subsidence. In this study, the authors evaluated their institutional rate of subsidence and resultant reoperation in patients who underwent LLIF using a 3D-printed pTi interbody cage.

METHODS This is a retrospective case series of consecutive adult patients who underwent LLIF using pTi cages from 2018 to 2020. Demographic and clinical characteristics including age, sex, bone mineral density, smoking status, diabetes, steroid use, number of fusion levels, posterior instrumentation, and graft size were collected. The Marchi subsidence grade was determined at the time of last follow-up. Outcome measures of interest were subsidence and resultant reoperation. Univariable logistic regression analysis was performed to assess the extent to which clinical and operative characteristics were associated with Marchi grade I–III subsidence. Significance was assessed at p < 0.05.

RESULTS Fifty-five patients (38 with degenerative disc disease and 17 with adult spinal deformity) were treated with 97 pTi interbody cages with a mean follow-up of 18 months. The mean age was 63.6 ± 10.1 years, 60% of patients were female, and 36% of patients had osteopenia or osteoporosis. Patients most commonly underwent single-level LLIF (58.2%). Sixteen patients (29.1%) had posterior instrumentation. The subsidence grade distribution was as follows: 89 (92%) grade 0, 5 (5%) grade I, 2 (2%) grade II, and 1 (1%) grade III. No patients who were active or prior smokers and no patients with posterior instrumentation experienced graft subsidence. No clinical or operative characteristics were significantly associated with graft subsidence. One patient (1.8%) required reoperation because of subsidence.

CONCLUSIONS In this institutional case series, subsidence of pTi intervertebral cages after LLIF occurred in 8% of operated levels, 3% of which were grade II or III. Only 1 patient required reoperation. These reported rates are lower than those reported for polyetheretherketone implants. Further studies are necessary to compare the impact of these cage materials on subsidence after LLIF.

Assessing the differences in operative and patient-reported outcomes between lateral approaches for lumbar fusion: a systematic review and indirect meta-analysis


J Neurosurg Spine 37:498–514, 2022

Anterior-to-psoas lumbar interbody fusion (ATP-LIF), more commonly referred to as oblique lateral interbody fusion, and lateral transpsoas lumbar interbody fusion (LTP-LIF), also known as extreme lateral interbody fusion, are the two commonly used lateral approaches for performing a lumbar fusion procedure. These approaches help overcome some of the technical challenges associated with traditional approaches for lumbar fusion. In this systematic review and indirect meta-analysis, the authors compared operative and patient-reported outcomes between these two select approaches using available studies.

METHODS Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) approach, the authors conducted an electronic search using the PubMed, EMBASE, and Scopus databases for studies published before May 1, 2019. Indirect meta-analysis was conducted on fusion rate, cage movement (subsidence plus migration), permanent deficits, and transient deficits; results were depicted as forest plots of proportions (effect size [ES]).

RESULTS A total of 63 studies were included in this review after applying the exclusion criteria, of which 26 studies investigated the outcomes of ATP-LIF, while 37 studied the outcomes of LTP-LIF. The average fusion rate was found to be similar between the two groups (ES 0.97, 95% CI 0.84–1.00 vs ES 0.94, 95% CI 0.91–0.97; p = 0.561). The mean incidence of cage movement was significantly higher in the ATP-LIF group compared with the LTP-LIF group (stand-alone: ES 0.15, 95% CI 0.06–0.27 vs ES 0.09, 95% CI 0.04–0.16 [p = 0.317]; combined: ES 0.18, 95% CI 0.07–0.32 vs ES 0.02, 95% CI 0.00–0.05 [p = 0.002]). The mean incidence of reoperations was significantly higher in patients undergoing ATPLIF than in those undergoing LTP-LIF (ES 0.02, 95% CI 0.01–0.03 vs ES 0.04, 95% CI 0.02–0.07; p = 0.012). The mean incidence of permanent deficits was similar between the two groups (stand-alone: ES 0.03, 95% CI 0.01–0.06 vs ES 0.05, 95% CI 0.01–0.12 [p = 0.204]; combined: ES 0.03, 95% CI 0.01–0.06 vs ES 0.03, 95% CI 0.00–0.08 [p = 0.595]). The postoperative changes in visual analog scale (VAS) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores were both found to be higher for ATP-LIF relative to LTP-LIF (VAS: weighted average 4.11 [SD 2.03] vs weighted average 3.75 [SD 1.94] [p = 0.004]; ODI: weighted average 28.3 [SD 5.33] vs weighted average 24.3 [SD 4.94] [p < 0.001]).

CONCLUSIONS These analyses indicate that while both approaches are associated with similar fusion rates, ATP-LIF may be related to higher odds of cage movement and reoperations as compared with LTP-LIF. Furthermore, there is no difference in rates of permanent deficits between the two procedures.

Predictors of subsidence after lateral lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 37:183–187, 2022

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) facilitates the restoration of disc height and the indirect decompression of neural elements. However, these benefits are lost when the graft subsides into the adjacent endplates. The factors leading to subsidence after LLIF are poorly understood. This article presents a case series of patients who underwent LLIF and reports factors correlating with subsidence.

METHODS A retrospective review of a consecutive, prospectively collected, single-institution database of patients who underwent LLIF over a 29-month period was performed. The degree of subsidence was measured on the basis of postoperative imaging. The timing of postoperative subsidence was determined, and intraoperative fluoroscopic images were reviewed to determine whether subsidence occurred as a result of endplate violation. The association of subsidence with age, sex, cage size and type, bone density, and posterior instrumentation was investigated.

RESULTS One hundred thirty-one patients underwent LLIF at a total of 204 levels. Subsidence was observed at 23 (11.3%) operated levels. True subsidence, attributable to postoperative cage settling, occurred for 12 (5.9%) of the levels; for the remaining 11 (5.4%) levels, subsidence was associated with intraoperative endplate violation noted on fluoroscopy during cage placement. All subsidence occurred within 12 weeks of surgery. Univariate analysis showed that the prevalence of true subsidence was significantly lower among patients with titanium implants (0 of 55; 0%) than among patients with polyetheretherketone cages (12 of 149; 8.1%) (p = 0.04). In addition, the mean ratio of graft area to inferior endplate area was significantly lower among the subsidence levels (0.34) than among the nonsubsidence levels (0.42) (p < 0.01). Finally, subsidence among levels with posterior fixation (4.4% [6/135]) was not significantly different than among those without posterior fixation (8.7% [6/69]) (p = 0.23). Multivariate analysis results showed that the ratio of cage to inferior endplate area was the only significant predictor of subsidence in this study (p < 0.01); increasing ratios were associated with a decreased likelihood of subsidence.

CONCLUSIONS Overall, the prevalence of subsidence after LLIF was low in this clinical series. Titanium cages were associated with a lower prevalence of observed subsidence on univariate analysis; however, multivariate analysis demonstrated that this effect may be attributable to the increased surface area of these cages relative to the inferior endplate area.

Lateral versus prone robot-assisted percutaneous pedicle screw placement: a CT-based comparative assessment of accuracy

J Neurosurg Spine 37:112–120, 2022

Single-position lateral lumbar interbody fusion (SP-LLIF) has recently gained significant popularity due to increased operative efficiency, but it remains technically challenging. Robot-assisted percutaneous pedicle screw (RAPPS) placement can facilitate screw placement in the lateral position. The authors have reported their initial experience with SP-LLIF with RA-PPS placement in the lateral position, and they have compared this accuracy with that of RA-PPS placement in the prone position.

METHODS The authors reviewed prospectively collected data from their first 100 lateral-position RA-PPSs. The authors graded screw accuracy on CT and compared it to the accuracy of all prone-position RA-PPS procedures during the same time period. The authors analyzed the effect of several demographic and perioperative metrics, as a whole and specifically for lateral-position RA-PPS placement.

RESULTS The authors placed 99 lateral-position RA-PPSs by using the ExcelsiusGPS robotic platform in the first 18 consecutive patients who underwent SP-LLIF with postoperative CT imaging; these patients were compared with 346 prone-position RA-PPSs that were placed in the first consecutive 64 patients during the same time period. All screws were placed at L1 to S1. Overall, the lateral group had 14 breaches (14.1%) and the prone group had 25 breaches (7.2%) (p = 0.032). The lateral group had 5 breaches (5.1%) greater than 2 mm (grade C or worse), and the prone group had 4 (1.2%) (p = 0.015). The operative level had an effect on the breach rate, with breach rates (grade C or worse) of 7.1% at L3 and 2.8% at L4. Most breaches were grade B (< 2 mm) and lateral, and no breach had clinical sequelae or required revision. Within the lateral group, multivariate regression analysis demonstrated that BMI and number of levels affected accuracy, but the side that was positioned up or down did not.

CONCLUSIONS RA-PPSs can improve the feasibility of SP-LLIF. Spine surgeons should be cautious and selective with this technique owing to decreased accuracy in the lateral position, particularly in obese patients. Further studies should compare SP-LLIF techniques performed while the patient is in the prone and lateral positions.

Surgical anatomy of minimally invasive lateral approaches to the thoracolumbar junction

J Neurosurg Spine 36:937–944, 2022

The thoracolumbar (TL) junction spanning T11 to L2 is difficult to access because of the convergence of multiple anatomical structures and tissue planes. Earlier studies have described different approaches and anatomical
structures relevant to the TL junction. This anatomical study aims to build a conceptual framework for selecting and executing a minimally invasive lateral approach to the spine for interbody fusion at any level of the TL junction with appropriate adjustments for local anatomical variations.

METHODS The authors reviewed anatomical dissections from 9 fresh-frozen cadaveric specimens as well as clinical case examples to denote key anatomical relationships and considerations for approach selection.

RESULTS The retroperitoneal and retropleural spaces reside within the same extracoelomic cavity and are separated from each other by the lateral attachments of the diaphragm to the rib and the L1 transverse process. If the lateral diaphragmatic attachments are dissected and the diaphragm is retracted anteriorly, the retroperitoneal and retropleural spaces will be in direct continuity, allowing full access to the TL junction. The T12–L2 disc spaces can be reached by a conventional lateral retroperitoneal exposure with the rostral displacement of the 11th and 12th ribs. With caudally
displaced ribs, or to expose T12–L1 disc spaces, the diaphragm can be freed from its lateral attachments to perform a retrodiaphragmatic approach. The T11–12 disc space can be accessed purely through a retropleural approach without significant mobilization of the diaphragm.

CONCLUSIONS The entirety of the TL junction can be accessed through a minimally invasive extracoelomic approach, with or without manipulation of the diaphragm. Approach selection is determined by the region of interest, degree of diaphragmatic mobilization required, and rib anatomy.

Single-position prone lateral transpsoas approach: early experience and outcomes

J Neurosurg Spine 36:358–365, 2022

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) via a transpsoas approach is a workhorse minimally invasive approach for lumbar arthrodesis that is often combined with posterior pedicle screw fixation. There has been increasing interest in performing single-position surgery, allowing access to the anterolateral and posterior spine without requiring patient repositioning. The feasibility of the transpsoas approach in patients in the prone position has been reported. Herein, the authors present a consecutive case series of all patients who underwent single-position prone transpsoas LLIF performed by an individual surgeon since adopting this approach.

METHODS A retrospective review was performed of a consecutive case series of adult patients (≥ 18 years old) who underwent single-position prone LLIF for any indication between October 2019 and November 2020. Pertinent operative details (levels, cage use, surgery duration, estimated blood loss, complications) and 3-month clinical outcomes were recorded. Intraoperative and 3-month postoperative radiographs were reviewed to assess for interbody subsidence.

RESULTS Twenty-eight of 29 patients (97%) underwent successful treatment with the prone lateral approach over the study interval; the approach was aborted in 1 patient, whose data were excluded. The mean (SD) age of patients was 67.9 (9.3) years; 75% (21) were women. Thirty-nine levels were treated: 18 patients (64%) had single-level fusion, 9 (32%) had 2-level fusion, and 1 (4%) had 3-level fusion. The most commonly treated levels were L3–4 (n = 15), L2–3 (n = 12), and L4–5 (n = 11). L1–2 was fused in 1 patient. The mean operative time was 286.5 (100.6) minutes, and the mean retractor time was 29.2 (13.5) minutes per level. The mean fluoroscopy duration was 215.5 (99.6) seconds, and the mean intraoperative radiation dose was 170.1 (94.8) mGy. Intraoperative subsidence was noted in 1 patient (4% of patients, 3% of levels). Intraoperative lateral access complications occurred in 11% of patients (1 cage repositioning, 2 inadvertent ruptures of anterior longitudinal ligament). Subsidence occurred in 5 of 22 patients (23%) with radiographic follow-up, affecting 6 of 33 levels (18%). Postoperative functional testing (Oswestry Disability Index, SF-36, visual analog scale–back and leg pain) identified significant improvement.

CONCLUSIONS This single-surgeon consecutive case series demonstrates that this novel technique is well tolerated and has acceptable clinical and radiographic outcomes. Larger patient series with longer follow-up are needed to further elucidate the safety profile and long-term outcomes of single-position prone LLIF.

Incidence of adjacent-segment surgery following stand-alone lateral lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 35:270–274, 2021

Adjacent-segment disease (ASD) requiring operative intervention is a relatively common long-term consequence of lumbar fusion surgery. Although the incidence of ASD requiring reoperation is well described for traditional posterior lumbar approaches (2.5%–3.9% per year), it remains poorly characterized for stand-alone lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF). In this study, the authors report their institutional experience with ASD requiring reoperation after LLIF over an extended follow-up period of 4 years.

METHODS Medical records were reviewed for 276 consecutive patients who underwent stand-alone LLIF by a single surgeon for degenerative spinal disorders. Inclusion criteria (single-stage, stand-alone LLIF without posterior supplementation, with no prior lumbar instrumentation, and a minimum of 4 years of follow-up) were met by 182 patients, who were analyzed for operative ASD incidence (per-year rate), demographics, and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score. Operative ASD was strictly defined as new-onset pathology following index surgery at directly adjacent levels to the prior construct. Operative, rather than symptomatic or radiographic, ASD was analyzed to provide a consistent and impactful endpoint while avoiding retrospective diagnosis.

RESULTS The study cohort of 182 patients had an operative ASD rate of 3.3% (n = 6 procedures) over 4 years of follow-up, for an incidence on Kaplan-Meier survival analysis of 0.88% (95% CI 0.67%–1.09%) per year. In comparing patients with operative ASD with those without, there were no significant differences in mean age (53.7 vs 56.2 years), male sex (33.3% vs 44.9%), smoking status (16.7% vs 25.0%), or number of levels fused (mean 1.33 vs 1.46). The operative ASD cohort had a greater mean BMI (37.3 vs 30.2, p < 0.01). Operative ASD patients had lower baseline ODI scores (33.8 vs 48.3, p = 0.02); however, no difference was observed in ODI at 6 weeks (34.0 vs 39.0) or 3 months (16.0 vs 32.8) postoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS The incidence of ASD in LLIF for degenerative lumbar etiologies in this cohort was 0.88% (95% CI 0.67%–1.09%) per year. Meanwhile, the reported reoperation rates for ASD in posterior spinal approaches was 2.5% to 3.9% per year, which implies that LLIF may be preferable for well-selected patients.

A novel endoscope-assisted technique for lateral lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 35:292–298, 2021

The lateral approach to the spine is generally well tolerated, but reports of debilitating injury to the lumbar plexus, iliac vessels, ureter, and abdominal viscera are increasingly recognized, likely related to the lack of direct visualization of these nearby structures. To minimize this complication profile, the authors describe here a novel, minimally invasive, endoscope-assisted technique for the LLIF and evaluate its clinical feasibility.

Seven consecutive endoscope-assisted lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) procedures by the senior authors were reviewed for the incidence of approachrelated complications. One patient had a postoperative approach-related complication. This patient developed transient ipsilateral thigh hip flexion weakness that resolved spontaneously by the 3-month follow-up. No patient experienced visceral, urological, or vascular injury, and no patient sustained a permanent neurological injury related to the procedure.

The authors’ preliminary experience suggests that this endoscope-assisted LLIF technique may be clinically feasible to mitigate vascular, urological, and visceral injury, especially in patients with previous abdominal surgery, anomalous anatomy, and revision operations. It provides direct visualization of at-risk structures without significant additional operative time. A larger series is needed to determine whether it reduces the incidence of lumbar plexopathy or visceral injury compared with traditional lateral approaches.

Predictors of indirect neural decompression in minimally invasive transpsoas lateral lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 35:80–90, 2021

An advantage of lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) surgery is the indirect decompression of the neural elements that occurs because of the resulting disc height restoration, spinal realignment, and ligamentotaxis. The degree to which indirect decompression occurs varies; no method exists for effectively predicting which patients will respond. In this study, the authors identify preoperative predictive factors of indirect decompression of the central canal.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective evaluation of prospectively collected consecutive patients at a single institution who were treated with LLIF without direct decompression. Preoperative and postoperative MRI was used to grade central canal stenosis, and 3D volumetric reconstructions were used to measure changes in the central canal area (CCA). Multivariate regression was used to identify predictive variables correlated with radiographic increases in the CCA and clinically successful improvement in visual analog scale (VAS) leg pain scores.

RESULTS One hundred seven levels were treated in 73 patients (mean age 68 years). The CCA increased 54% from a mean of 0.96 cm2 to a mean of 1.49 cm2 (p < 0.001). Increases in anterior disc height (74%), posterior disc height (81%), right (25%) and left (22%) foraminal heights, and right (12%) and left (15%) foraminal widths, and reduction of spondylolisthesis (67%) (all p < 0.001) were noted. Multivariate evaluation of predictive variables identified that preoperative spondylolisthesis (p < 0.001), reduced posterior disc height (p = 0.004), and lower body mass index (p = 0.042) were independently associated with radiographic increase in the CCA. Thirty-two patients were treated at a single level and had moderate or severe central stenosis preoperatively. Significant improvements in Oswestry Disability Index and VAS back and leg pain scores were seen in these patients (all p < 0.05). Twenty-five (78%) patients achieved the minimum clinically important difference in VAS leg pain scores, with only 2 (6%) patients requiring direct decompression postoperatively due to persistent symptoms and stenosis. Only increased anterior disc height was predictive of clinical failure to achieve the minimum clinically important difference.

CONCLUSIONS LLIF successfully achieves indirect decompression of the CCA, even in patients with substantial central stenosis. Low body mass index, preoperative spondylolisthesis, and disc height collapse appear to be most predictive of successful indirect decompression. Patients with preserved disc height but severe preoperative stenosis are at higher risk of failure to improve clinically.

PEEK versus titanium cages in lateral lumbar interbody fusion: a comparative analysis of subsidence

Neurosurg Focus 49 (3):E10, 2020

The authors have provided a review of radiographic subsidence after lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) as a comparative analysis between titanium and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) cages. Many authors describe a reluctance to use titanium cages in spinal fusion secondary to subsidence concerns due to the increased modulus of elasticity of metal cages. The authors intend for this report to provide observational data regarding the juxtaposition of these two materials in the LLIF domain.

METHODS A retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database identified 113 consecutive patients undergoing lateral fusion for degenerative indications from January to December 2017. The surgeons performing the cage implantations were two orthopedic spine surgeons and two neurosurgeons. Plain standing radiographs were obtained at 1–2 weeks, 8–12 weeks, and 12 months postoperatively. Using a validated grading system, interbody subsidence into the endplates was graded at these time points on a scale of 0 to III. The primary outcome measure was subsidence between the two groups. Secondary outcomes were analyzed as well.

RESULTS Of the 113 patients in the sample, groups receiving PEEK and titanium implants were closely matched at 57 and 56 patients, respectively. Cumulatively, 156 cages were inserted and recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein– 2 (rhBMP-2) was used in 38.1%. The average patient age was 60.4 years and average follow-up was 75.1 weeks. Subsidence in the titanium group in this study was less common than in the PEEK cage group. At early follow-up, groups had similar subsidence outcomes. Statistical significance was reached at the 8- to 12-week and 52-week follow-ups, demonstrating more subsidence in the PEEK cage group than the titanium cage group. rhBMP-2 usage was also highly correlated with higher subsidence rates at all 3 follow-up time points. Age was correlated with higher subsidence rates in univariate and multivariate analysis.

CONCLUSIONS Titanium cages were associated with lower subsidence rates than PEEK cages in this investigation. Usage of rhBMP-2 was also robustly associated with higher endplate subsidence. Each additional year of age correlated with an increased subsidence risk. Subsidence in LLIF is likely a response to a myriad of factors that include but are certainly not limited to cage material. Hence, the avoidance of titanium interbody implants secondary solely to concerns over a modulus of elasticity likely overlooks other variables of equal or greater importance.

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion Revisited: Complication Avoidance and Outcomes with the Mini-Open Approach

World Neurosurg. (2019) 121:e647-e653

OBJECTIVE: To discuss lessons learned from an initial lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) experience with a focus on evolving surgical technique, complication avoidance, and new motor and sensory outcomes after implementation of a modified surgical approach.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis of a prospectively collected series of all patients undergoing LLIF by the senior author (A.D.L.) from January 2010 to January 2018 after implementation of a modified surgical mini-open technique, compared with previously reported institutional results with the originally recommended percutaneous technique. LLIF-specific complications examined included groin/thigh sensory dysfunction, flank bulge/pseudohernia, psoas-pattern weakness, and femoral nerve injury.

RESULTS: The incidence (19%, n [ 98 patients) of groin/ thigh sensory dysfunction in our cohort was significantly lower than that of the historical control (60%, n [ 59) (P < 0.0001). The incidence of abdominal flank bulge/pseudohernia (2.0%, n[98 patients) in our cohort was improved but not significantly lower than that of the historical control (4.2%, n[118) (P[0.36). The incidence of psoas-patternweakness (3.1%, n[98) in our cohort was significantly lower than that of the historical control (23.7%, n [ 59) (P [ 0.0001). The incidence of femoral nerve injury (0%, n[98 patients) in our cohort was improved but was not significantly lower than that of the historical control (1.7%, n [118) (P[0.20).

CONCLUSIONS: The adoption of an exclusive mini-open muscle-splitting approach with first-look inspection of the lumbosacral plexus nerve elements may improve motor and sensory outcomes in general and the incidence of postoperative groin/thigh sensory dysfunction and psoaspattern weakness in particular.

Curve Laterality for Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion in Adult Scoliosis Surgery: The Concave Versus Convex Controversy

Neurosurgery 83:1219–1225, 2018

Minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) is an effective adjunct in adult degenerative scoliosis (ADS) surgery. LLIF approaches performed fromthe concavity or convexity have inherent approach-related risks and benefits.

OBJECTIVE: To analyze LLIF approach-related complications and radiographic and clinical outcomes in patients with ADS.

METHODS: A multicenter retrospective review of a minimally invasive adult spinal deformity database was queried with a minimum of 2-yr follow-up. Patients were divided into 2 groups as determined by the side of the curve from which the LLIF was performed: concave or convex.

RESULTS: No differences between groups were noted in demographic, and preoperative or postoperative radiographic parameters (all P > .05). There were 8 total complications in the convex group (34.8%) and 21 complications in the concave group (52.5%; P = .17). A subgroup analysis was performed in 49 patients in whom L4-5 was in the primary curve and not in the fractional curve. In this subset of patients, there were 6 complications in the convex group (31.6%) compared to 19 in the concave group (63.3%; P < .05) and both groups experienced significant improvements in coronal Cobb angle, Oswestry Disability Index, and Visual Analog Scale score with no difference between groups.

CONCLUSION: Patients undergoing LLIF for ADS had no statistically significant clinical or operative complication rates regardless of a concave or convex approach to the curve. Clinical outcomes and coronal plane deformity improved regardless of approach side. However, in cases wherein L4-5 is in the primary curve, approaching the fractional curve at L4-5 from the concavity may be associated with a higher complication rate compared to a convex approach.


Lateral lumbar interbody fusion in the elderly

J Neurosurg Spine 29:525–529, 2018

Elderly patients, often presenting with multiple medical comorbidities, are touted to be at an increased risk of peri- and postoperative complications following spine surgery. Various minimally invasive surgical techniques have been developed and employed to treat an array of spinal conditions while minimizing complications. Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) is one such approach. The authors describe clinical outcomes in patients over the age of 70 years following stand-alone LLIF.

METHODS A retrospective query of a prospectively maintained database was performed for patients over the age of 70 years who underwent stand-alone LLIF. Patients with posterior segmental fixation and/or fusion were excluded. The preoperative and postoperative values for the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) were analyzed to compare outcomes after intervention. Femoral neck t-scores were acquired from bone density scans and correlated with the incidence of graft subsidence.

RESULTS Among the study cohort of 55 patients, the median age at the time of surgery was 74 years (range 70–87 years). Seventeen patients had at least 3 medical comorbidities at surgery. Twenty-three patients underwent a 1-level, 14 a 2-level, and 18 patients a 3-level or greater stand-alone lateral fusion. The median estimated blood loss was 25 ml (range 5–280 ml). No statistically significant relationship was detected between volume of blood loss and the number of operative levels. The median length of hospital stay was 2 days (range 1–4 days). No statistically significant relationship was observed between the length of hospital stay and age at the time of surgery. There was one intraoperative death secondary to cardiac arrest, with a mortality rate of 1.8%. One patient developed a transient femoral nerve injury. Five patients with symptomatic graft subsidence subsequently underwent posterior instrumentation. A lower femoral neck t-score < -1.0 correlated with a higher incidence of graft subsidence (p = 0.006). The mean ODI score 1 year postoperatively of 31.1 was significantly (p = 0.003) less than the mean preoperative ODI score of 46.2.

CONCLUSIONS Stand-alone LLIF can be safely and effectively performed in the elderly population. Careful evaluation of preoperative bone density parameters should be employed to minimize risk of subsidence and need for additional surgery. Despite an association with increased comorbidities, age alone should not be a deterrent when considering stand-alone LLIF in the elderly population.


Lateral interbody fusion combined with open posterior surgery for adult spinal deformity

J Neurosurg Spine 25:697–705, 2016

Lateral interbody fusion (LIF) with percutaneous screw fixation can treat adult spinal deformity (ASD) in the coronal plane, but sagittal correction is limited. The authors combined LIF with open posterior (OP) surgery using facet osteotomies and a rod-cantilever technique to enhance lumbar lordosis (LL). It is unclear how this hybrid strategy compares to OP surgery alone. The goal of this study was to evaluate the combination of LIF and OP surgery (LIF+OP) for ASD.

Methods All thoracolumbar ASD cases from 2009 to 2014 were reviewed. Patients with < 6 months follow-up, prior fusion, severe sagittal imbalance (sagittal vertical axis > 200 mm or pelvic incidence-LL > 40°), and those undergoing anterior lumbar interbody fusion were excluded. Deformity correction, complications, and outcomes were compared between LIF+OP and OP-only surgery patients.

Results LIF+OP (n = 32) and OP-only patients (n = 60) had similar baseline features and posterior fusion levels. On average, 3.8 LIFs were performed. Patients who underwent LIF+OP had less blood loss (1129 vs 1833 ml, p = 0.016) and lower durotomy rates (0% vs 23%, p = 0.002). Patients in the LIF+OP group required less ICU care (0.7 vs 2.8 days, p < 0.001) and inpatient rehabilitation (63% vs 87%, p = 0.015). The incidence of new leg pain, numbness, or weakness was similar between groups (28% vs 22%, p = 0.609). All leg symptoms resolved within 6 months, except in 1 OP-only patient. Follow-up duration was similar (28 vs 25 months, p = 0.462). LIF+OP patients had significantly less pseudarthrosis (6% vs 27%, p = 0.026) and greater improvement in visual analog scale back pain (mean decrease 4.0 vs 1.9, p = 0.046) and Oswestry Disability Index (mean decrease 21 vs 12, p = 0.035) scores. Lumbar coronal correction was greater with LIF+OP surgery (mean [± SD] 22° ± 13° vs 14° ± 13°, p = 0.010). LL restoration was 22° ± 13°, intermediately between OP-only with facet osteotomies (11° ± 7°, p < 0.001) and pedicle subtraction osteotomy (29° ± 10°, p = 0.045).

Conclusions LIF+OP is an effective strategy for ASD of moderate severity. Compared with the authors’ OP-only operations, LIF+OP was associated with faster recovery, fewer complications, and greater relief of pain and disability.

A Cost-Effectiveness Comparison Between Open Transforaminal and Minimally Invasive Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusions

lateral lumbar interbody fusion

Neurosurgery 78:585–595, 2016

Direct cost comparisons between minimally invasive spine surgeries and the open options are rare.

OBJECTIVE: To compare healthcare costs associated with open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) and minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) by calculating the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) and to calculate the thresholds for minimum clinically important difference and minimum cost-effective difference for patient-reported outcome measures at the 2-year follow-up.

METHODS: Forty-five patients who underwent single-level TLIF and 29 patients who underwent single-level stand-alone LLIF were included in the comparison. All costs from diagnosis through the 2-year follow-up were available from a comprehensive single-center data bank within a unified hospital system. Payment provided for all spine-related medical resource use from the time of diagnosis through 2 years was recorded. A 0% discount rate was applied. Quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were calculated from the EuroQol-5D collected in an unbiased manner. Difference in total cost per QALY gained for LLIF minus that for TLIF was assessed as the estimate of the ICER from a US perspective.

RESULTS: Significant improvements were observed at the 2-year follow-up for both TLIF and LLIF with the Short Form-36 physical component summary, Oswestry Disability Index, visual analog scale back pain and leg pain scores, and EuroQol-5D. ICER calculations revealed similar mean cumulative QALYs gained at the 2-year interval (0.67 for TLIF and 0.60 for LLIF; P = .33). Median total costs of care after TLIF and LLIF were $44 068 and $45 574, respectively (P = .96). Minimum cost-effective difference thresholds with an anchor of ,$50 000 per QALY were higher than minimum clinically important difference thresholds for all patient-reported outcome measures. Total mean cost and EuroQol-5D were statistically equivalent between the 2 treatment groups.

CONCLUSION: TLIF and LLIF produced equivalent 2-year patient outcomes at an equivalent cost-effectiveness profile.

Three-Dimensional Computed Tomography-Based Spinal Navigation in Minimally Invasive Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Three-Dimensional Computed Tomography-Based Spinal Navigation in Minimally Invasive Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion4

Operative Neurosurgery 11:259–267, 2015

As with most minimally invasive spine procedures, lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) requires the use of biplanar fluoroscopy for localization and safe interbody cage placement. Computed tomography (CT)-based intraoperative spinal navigation has been shown to be more effective than fluoroscopic guidance for posterior-based approaches such as pedicle screw instrumentation. However, the use of spinal navigation in LLIF has not been well studied.

OBJECTIVE: To present the technique for using an intraoperative cone-beam CT and image-guided navigation system in LLIF and to provide a preliminary analysis of outcomes.

METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed a prospectively acquired database and the electronic records of patients undergoing LLIF with spinal navigation. Eight patients were identified. Postoperative neurological deficits were recorded. All patients underwent postprocedural CT and x-ray imaging for analysis of accuracy of cage placement. Accuracy of cage placement was determined by location within the disk space.

RESULTS: The mean age was 66 years, and 6 patients were women. A mean 2.8 levels were treated with a total of 22 lateral cages implanted via navigation. All cages were placed within quarters 1 to 2 or 2 to 3, signifying the anterior half or middle portions of the disk space. There were no sensory or motor deficits postoperatively.

CONCLUSION: Use of an intraoperative cone-beam CT with an image-guided navigation system is feasible and safe and appears to be accurate, although a larger study is required to confirm these results.

Minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion and transpsoas approach–related morbidity

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.

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