Hospital cost differences between open and endoscopic lumbar spine decompression surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 40:77–83, 2024

In recent years, fully endoscopic decompression surgery for degenerative spine disease has become increasingly popular in the US. Although an endoscopic approach has demonstrated some benefits compared with open procedures in randomized controlled trials, the cost of advanced technologies remains contested. The authors evaluated the differences in costs and cost drivers between open and endoscopic decompression surgical procedures performed at a single institution.

METHODS Using associated Current Procedural Terminology codes, the authors identified all open and endoscopic decompression lumbar surgical procedures performed from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2022. Preoperative comorbidities, surgical characteristics, and postoperative outcomes were captured. The costs of index surgery–related readmission for revision, washout, or other complications were included in the index surgery expenses. Associated inhospital costs were collected; these were reported in comparative percentages with open surgical procedures as the baseline because of an institutional agreement. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.

RESULTS The retrospective search identified 633 open surgical procedures and 195 endoscopic surgical procedures for inclusion. The two patient cohorts were similar, with clinically nonrelevant but statistically significant differences in mean age (open 55.7 years vs endoscopic 59.4 years, p = 0.01) and mean American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status class (open 2.3 vs endoscopic 2.4, p = 0.03). Postoperatively, patients who underwent open surgical procedures had significantly longer mean hospital stays (open 1.4 days vs endoscopic 0.7, p < 0.01) and more perioperative complications (open 7.9% of patients vs endoscopic 3.1%, p = 0.02), and they required washout surgical procedures in some cases (open 1.3% vs endoscopic 0%, p = 0.12). The largest cost difference between open and endoscopic surgical procedures was the significantly greater cost of disposable supplies for endoscopic cases (10.1% vs 31.7% of the total cost of open procedures, p < 0.01), and open surgical procedures were generally less costly in total (100.0% vs 115.1%, p < 0.01). In multivariate linear regression, endoscopic surgery was independently associated with greater total costs (standardized beta 15.9%, p < 0.01), although length of hospital stay (standardized beta 34.0%) and readmissions (standardized beta 30.0%, p < 0.01) had larger effects on cost.

CONCLUSIONS The endoscopic approach was associated with greater total in-hospital costs compared with open procedures. The findings of further cost evaluations, including those of patient-reported outcomes, social cost, and capital costs per procedure type, need to be included in operational and clinical decisions.

Midline lumbar interbody fusion: a review of the surgical technique and outcomes

J Neurosurg Spine 39:462–470, 2023

Midline lumbar interbody fusion (MidLIF) is a mini-open posterior interbody fusion technique defined by a cortical screw trajectory wherein screws are placed from a more medial to lateral trajectory compared with traditional pedicle screws. This enables the surgeon to perform a smaller muscle dissection with the benefits of improved blood loss, less muscle retraction, decreased operative time, shorter length of stay, and improved back pain outcomes compared with the traditional posterior lumbar interbody fusion techniques utilizing pedicle screw fixation.

Importantly, MidLIF offers comparable clinical outcomes and radiographic outcomes to other posterior lumbar interbody fusion techniques.

In the current review, the authors aimed to educate readers about the MidLIF surgical technique, as well as surgical, clinical, radiographic, cost effectiveness, and biomechanical outcomes, when compared with both open and minimally invasive posterior lumbar interbody fusion techniques with pedicle screw fixation.

Readers will be able to utilize this information to determine how the MidLIF procedure compares as an alternative to traditional techniques.

Factors associated with readmission after minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 38:681–687, 2023

The objective of this study was to identify factors that lead to a prolonged hospital stay or 30-day readmission after minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) at a single institution.

METHODS Consecutive patients who underwent MIS TLIF from January 1, 2016, to March 31, 2018, were retrospectively analyzed. Demographic data, including age, sex, ethnicity, smoking status, and body mass index, were collected along with operative details, indications, affected spinal levels, estimated blood loss, and operative duration. The effects of these data were evaluated relative to the hospital length of stay (LOS) and 30-day readmission.

RESULTS The authors identified 174 consecutive patients who underwent MIS TLIF at 1 or 2 levels from a prospectively collected database. The mean (range) patient age was 64.1 (31–81) years, 97 were women (56%), and 77 were men (44%). Of 182 levels fused, 127 were done at L4–5 (70%), 32 at L3–4 (18%), 13 at L5–S1 (7%), and 10 at L2–3 (5%). Patients underwent 166 (95%) single-level procedures and 8 (5%) 2-level procedures. The mean (range) procedural duration, defined as the time from incision to closure, was 164.6 (90–529) minutes. The mean (range) LOS was 1.8 (0–8) days. Eleven patients (6%) were readmitted within 30 days; the most frequent causes were urinary retention, constipation, and persistent or contralateral symptoms. Seventeen patients had LOS greater than 3 days. Six of those patients (35%) were identified as widows, widowers, or divorced, and 5 of them lived alone. Six patients with prolonged LOS (35%) required placement in either skilled nursing or acute inpatient rehabilitation. Regression analyses showed living alone (p = 0.04) and diabetes (p = 0.04) as predictors of readmission. Regression analyses revealed female sex (p = 0.03), diabetes (p = 0.03), and multilevel surgery (p = 0.006) as predictors of LOS > 3 days.

CONCLUSIONS Urinary retention, constipation, and persistent radicular symptoms were the leading causes of readmission within 30 days of surgery in this series, which is distinct from data from the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program. The inability to discharge a patient home for social reasons led to prolonged inpatient hospital stays. Identifying these risk factors and proactively addressing them could lower readmission rates and decrease LOS among patients undergoing MIS TLIF.

Rod fractures in thoracolumbar fusions to the sacrum/pelvis for adult symptomatic lumbar scoliosis

J Neurosurg Spine 38:217–229, 2023

Previous reports of rod fracture (RF) in adult spinal deformity are limited by heterogeneous cohorts, low follow-up rates, and relatively short follow-up durations. Since the majority of RFs present > 2 years after surgery, true occurrence and revision rates remain unclear. The objectives of this study were to better understand the risk factors for RF and assess its occurrence and revision rates following primary thoracolumbar fusions to the sacrum/pelvis for adult symptomatic lumbar scoliosis (ASLS) in a prospective series with long-term follow-up.

METHODS Patient records were obtained from the Adult Symptomatic Lumbar Scoliosis–1 (ASLS-1) database, an NIH-sponsored multicenter, prospective study. Inclusion criteria were as follows: patients aged 40–80 years undergoing primary surgeries for ASLS (Cobb angle ≥ 30° and Oswestry Disability Index ≥ 20 or Scoliosis Research Society-22r ≤ 4.0 in pain, function, and/or self-image) with instrumented fusion of ≥ 7 levels that included the sacrum/pelvis. Patients with and without RF were compared to assess risk factors for RF and revision surgery.

RESULTS Inclusion criteria were met by 160 patients (median age 62 years, IQR 55.7–67.9 years). At a median followup of 5.1 years (IQR 3.8–6.6 years), there were 92 RFs in 62 patients (38.8%). The median time to RF was 3.0 years (IQR 1.9–4.54 years), and 73% occurred > 2 years following surgery. Based on Kaplan-Meier analyses, estimated RF rates at 2, 4, 5, and 8 years after surgery were 11%, 24%, 35%, and 49%, respectively. Baseline radiographic, clinical, and demographic characteristics were similar between patients with and without RF. In Cox regression models, greater postoperative pelvic tilt (HR 1.895, 95% CI 1.196–3.002, p = 0.0065) and greater estimated blood loss (HR 1.02, 95% CI 1.005–1.036, p = 0.0088) were associated with increased risk of RF. Thirty-eight patients (61% of all RFs) underwent revision surgery. Bilateral RF was predictive of revision surgery (HR 3.52, 95% CI 1.8–6.9, p = 0.0002), while patients with unilateral nondisplaced RFs were less likely to require revision (HR 0.39, 95% CI 0.18–0.84, p = 0.016).

CONCLUSIONS This study provides what is to the authors’ knowledge the highest-quality data to date on RF rates following ASLS surgery. At a median follow-up of 5.1 years, 38.8% of patients had at least one RF. Estimated RF rates at 2, 4, 5, and 8 years after surgery were 11%, 24%, 35%, and 49%, respectively. Greater estimated blood loss and postoperative pelvic tilt were significant risk factors for RF. These findings emphasize the importance of long-term follow-up to realize the true prevalence and cumulative incidence of RF.

The impact of cage positioning on lumbar lordosis and disc space restoration following minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion

Neurosurg Focus 54(1):E7, 2023

OBJECTIVE The objective of this study was to evaluate patient and surgical factors that predict increased overall lumbar lordosis (LL) and segmental lordosis correction following a minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) procedure.

METHODS A retrospective review was conducted of all patients who underwent one- or two-level LLIF. Preoperative, initial postoperative, and 6-month postoperative measurements of LL, segmental lordosis, anterior disc height, and posterior disc height were collected from standing lateral radiographs for each patient. Cage placement was measured utilizing the center point ratio (CPR) on immediate postoperative radiographs. Spearman correlations were used to assess associations between cage lordosis and radiographic parameters. Multivariate linear regression was performed to assess independent predictors of outcomes.

RESULTS A total of 106 levels in 78 unique patients were included. Most procedures involved fusion of one level (n = 50, 64.1%), most commonly L3–4 (46.2%). Despite no differences in baseline segmental lordosis, patients with anteriorly or centrally placed cages experienced the greatest segmental lordosis correction immediately (mean anterior 4.81° and central 4.46° vs posterior 2.47°, p = 0.0315) and at 6 months postoperatively, and patients with anteriorly placed cages had greater overall lordosis correction postoperatively (mean 6.30°, p = 0.0338). At the 6-month follow-up, patients with anteriorly placed cages experienced the greatest increase in anterior disc height (mean anterior 6.24 mm vs posterior 3.69 mm, p = 0.0122). Cages placed more posteriorly increased the change in posterior disc height postoperatively (mean posterior 4.91 mm vs anterior 1.80 mm, p = 0.0001) and at 6 months (mean posterior 4.18 mm vs anterior 2.06 mm, p = 0.0255). There were no correlations between cage lordotic angle and outcomes. On multivariate regression, anterior cage placement predicted greater 6-month improvement in segmental lordosis, while posterior placement predicted greater 6-month improvement in posterior disc height. Percutaneous screw placement, cage lordotic angle, and cage height did not independently predict any radiographic outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS LLIF procedures reliably improve LL and increase intervertebral disc space. Anterior cage placement improves the lordosis angle greater than posterior placement, which better corrects sagittal alignment, but there is still a significant improvement in lordosis even with a posteriorly placed cage. Posterior cage placement provides greater restoration in posterior disc space height, maximizing indirect decompression, but even the anteriorly placed cages provided indirect decompression. Cage parameters including cage height, lordosis angle, and material do not impact radiographic improvement.

Unilateral approach with two‑cage insertion for full endoscopic transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion: technical report

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:1521–1527

The advantages of performing a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) with two cages rather than a single cage include a larger cage-bone contact area and higher interbody stability.

Methods A customized cage guide is docked in the disc space created after a total facet resection. The first cage is inserted deeply into the contralateral disc space. The second cage is then inserted using the cage guide device while protecting the exiting and traversing nerve roots.

Conclusion We successfully inserted two cages from unilateral side during full endoscopic TLIF. This technique is recommended for L4–L5 and L5–S1 levels.

Lumbar decompression surgery for cauda equina syndrome — comparison of complication rates between daytime and overnight operating

Acta Neurochirurgica (2022) 164:1203–1208

Purpose To investigate the incidence of complications from lumbar decompression ± discectomy surgery for cauda equina syndrome (CES), assessing whether time of day is associated with a change in the incidence of complications.

Methods Electronic clinical and operative notes for all lumbar decompression operations undertaken at our institution for CES over a 2-year time period were retrospectively reviewed. “Overnight” surgery was defined as any surgery occurring between 18:00 and 08:00 on any day. Clinicopathological characteristics, surgical technique, and peri/post-operative complications were recorded. Multivariable logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals.

Results A total of 81 lumbar decompression operations were performed in the 2-year period and analysed. A total of 29 (36%) operations occurred overnight. Complete CES (CESR) was seen in 13 cases (16%) in total, 7 of whom underwent surgery during the day. Exactly 27 complications occurred in 24 (30%) patients. The most frequently occurring complication was a dural tear (n = 21, 26%), followed by post-operative haematoma, infection, and residual disc. Complication rates in the CESR cohort (54%) were significantly greater than in the CES incomplete (CESI) cohort (25%) (p = 0.04). On multivariable analysis, overnight surgery was independently associated with a significantly increased complication rate (OR 2.83, CI 1.02–7.89).

Conclusions Lumbar decompressions performed overnight for CES were more than twice as likely to suffer a complication, in comparison to those performed within daytime hours. Our study suggests that out-of-hours operating, particularly at night, must be clinically justified and should not be influenced by day-time operating capacity.

Decompression alone versus decompression and instrumented fusion for the treatment of isthmic spondylolisthesis: a randomized controlled trial

J Neurosurg Spine 35:687–697, 2021

The most advocated surgical technique to treat symptoms of isthmic spondylolisthesis is decompression with instrumented fusion. A less-invasive classical approach has also been reported, which consists of decompression only. In this study the authors compared the clinical outcomes of decompression only with those of decompression with instrumented fusion in patients with isthmic spondylolisthesis.

METHODS Eighty-four patients with lumbar radiculopathy or neurogenic claudication secondary to low-grade isthmic spondylolisthesis were randomly assigned to decompression only (n = 43) or decompression with instrumented fusion (n = 41). Primary outcome parameters were scores on the Roland Disability Questionnaire (RDQ), separate visual analog scales (VASs) for back pain and leg pain, and patient report of perceived recovery at 12-week and 2-year follow-ups. The proportion of reoperations was scored as a secondary outcome measure. Repeated measures ANOVA according to the intention-to-treat principle was performed.

RESULTS Decompression alone did not show superiority in terms of disability scores at 12-week follow-up (p = 0.32, 95% CI −4.02 to 1.34), nor in any other outcome measure. At 2-year follow-up, RDQ disability scores improved more in the fusion group (10.3, 95% CI 3.9–8.2, vs 6.0, 95% CI 8.2–12.4; p = 0.006, 95% CI −7.3 to −1.3). Likewise, back pain decreased more in the fusion group (difference: −18.3 mm, CI −32.1 to −4.4, p = 0.01) on a 100-mm VAS scale, and a higher proportion of patients perceived recovery as showing “good results” (44% vs 74%, p = 0.01). Cumulative probabilities for reoperation were 47% in the decompression and 13% in the fusion group (p < 0.001) at the 2-year follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS In patients with isthmic spondylolisthesis, decompression with instrumented fusion resulted in comparable short-term results, significantly better long-term outcomes, and fewer reoperations than decompression alone. Decompression with instrumented fusion is a superior surgical technique that should in general be offered as a first treatment option for isthmic spondylolisthesis, but not for degenerative spondylolisthesis, which has a different etiology. Clinical trial registration number: NTR1300 (Netherlands Trial Register)

Low-back pain after lumbar discectomy for disc herniation: what can you tell your patient?

J Neurosurg Spine 35:715–721, 2021

Lumbar discectomy (LD) is frequently performed to alleviate radicular pain resulting from disc herniation. While this goal is achieved in most patients, improvement in low-back pain (LBP) has been reported inconsistently. The goal of this study was to characterize how LBP evolves following discectomy.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected patient data from the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network (CSORN) registry. Patients who underwent surgery for lumbar disc herniation were eligible for inclusion. The primary outcome was a clinically significant reduction in the back pain numerical rating scale (BPNRS) assessed at 12 months. Binary logistic regression was used to model the relationship between the primary outcome and potential predictors.

RESULTS There were 557 patients included in the analysis. The chief complaint was radiculopathy in 85%; 55% of patients underwent a minimally invasive procedure. BPNRS improved at 3 months by 48% and this improvement was sustained at all follow-ups. LBP and leg pain improvement were correlated. Clinically significant improvement in BPNRS at 12 months was reported by 64% of patients. Six factors predicted a lack of LBP improvement: female sex, low education level, marriage, not working, low expectations with regard to LBP improvement, and a low BPNRS preoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS Clinically significant improvement in LBP is observed in the majority of patients after LD. These data should be used to better counsel patients and provide accurate expectations about back pain improvement.

Modified far lateral endoscopic transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion using a biportal endoscopic approach

Acta Neurochirurgica (2021) 163:1205–1209

Endoscopic transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) has the disadvantage of the small cage size and by consequence risk for cage subsidence. We succeeded to insert a large oblique lumbar interbody fusion (OLIF) cage during biportal endoscopic TLIF.

Methods Unilateral total facetectomy was performed to expose the exiting and traversing nerve roots. The distance between the exiting and traversing nerve roots was measured before OLIF cage insertion. We inserted an OLIF cage instead of a TLIF cage.

Conclusion We successfully performed modified far lateral biportal endoscopic TLIF using large OLIF cages. Modified far lateral biportal endoscopic TLIF is usually suitable for the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels.

Predictors of the Best Outcomes Following Minimally Invasive Surgery for Grade 1 Degenerative Lumbar Spondylolisthesis

Neurosurgery, 87 (6) 2020: 1130–1138

The factors driving the best outcomes following minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for grade 1 degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis are not clearly elucidated.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the factors that drive the best 24-mo patient-reported outcomes (PRO) following MIS surgery for grade 1 degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis.

METHODS: A total of 259 patients from the Quality Outcomes Database lumbar spondylolisthesis module underwent single-level surgery for degenerative grade 1 lumbar spondylolisthesis with MIS techniques (188 fusions, 72.6%). Twenty-four-month follow-up PROs were collected and included the Oswestry disability index (ODI) change (ie, 24-mo minus baseline value), numeric rating scale (NRS) back pain change, NRS leg pain change, EuroQoL-5D (EQ-5D) questionnaire change, and North American Spine Society (NASS) satisfaction questionnaire. Multivariable models were constructed to identify predictors of PRO change.

RESULTS: The mean age was 64.2 ± 11.5 yr and consisted of 148 (57.1%) women and 111(42.9%) men. In multivariable analyses, employment was associated with superior postoperative ODI change (β-7.8; 95% CI [−12.9 to −2.6]; P = .003), NRS back pain change (β −1.2; 95% CI [−2.1 to −0.4]; P = .004), EQ-5D change (β 0.1; 95% CI [0.01-0.1]; P = .03), and NASS satisfaction (OR = 3.7; 95% CI [1.7-8.3]; P < .001). Increasing age was associated with superior NRS leg pain change (β −0.1; 95% CI [−0.1 to −0.01]; P= .03) and NASS satisfaction (OR=1.05; 95%CI [1.01-1.09]; P=.02). Fusion surgerieswere associated with superior ODI change (β −6.7; 95% CI [−12.7 to −0.7]; P= .03), NRS back pain change (β −1.1; 95% CI [−2.1 to −0.2]; P= .02), and NASS satisfaction (OR = 3.6; 95% CI [1.6-8.3]; P= .002).

CONCLUSION: Preoperative employment and surgeries, including a fusion, were predictors of superior outcomes across the domains of disease-specific disability, back pain, leg pain, quality of life, and patient satisfaction. Increasing age was predictive of superior outcomes for leg pain improvement and satisfaction.


Kambin’s triangle: definition and new classification schema

J Neurosurg Spine 32:390–398, 2020

Kambin’s triangle is an anatomical corridor used to access critical structures in a variety of spinal procedures. It is considered a safe space because it is devoid of vascular and neural structures of importance. Nonetheless, there is currently significant variation in the literature regarding the exact dimensions and anatomical borders of Kambin’s triangle. This confusion was originally caused by leaving the superior articular process (SAP) unassigned in the description of the working triangle, despite Kambin identifying that structure in his original report. The SAP is the most relevant structure to consider when accessing the transforaminal corridor. Leaving the SAP unassigned has led to an open-handed application of the term “Kambin’s triangle.” That single eponym currently has two potential meanings, one meaning for endoscopic surgeons working through a corridor in the intact spine and a second meaning for surgeons accessing the disc space after a complete or partial facetectomy. Nevertheless, an anatomical corridor should have one consistent definition to clearly communicate techniques and use of instrumentation performed through that space. As such, the authors propose a new surgically relevant classification of this corridor. Assigning the SAP a border requires adding another dimension to the triangle, thereby transforming it into a prism. The term “Kambin’s prism” indicates the assignment of a border to all relevant anatomical structures, allowing for a uniform definition of the 3D space. From there, the classification scheme considers the expansion of the corridor and the extent of bone removal, with a particular focus on the SAP.

Stem cell injections for axial back pain: a systematic review of associated risks and complications with a case illustration of diffuse hyperplastic gliosis resulting in cauda equina syndrome

J Neurosurg Spine 31:906–913, 2019

Axial low-back pain is a disease of epidemic proportions that exerts a heavy global toll on the active workforce and results in more than half a trillion dollars in annual costs. Stem cell injections are being increasingly advertised as a restorative solution for various degenerative diseases and are becoming more affordable and attainable by the public. There have been multiple reports in the media of these injections being easily available abroad outside of clinical trials, but scientific evidence supporting them remains scarce. The authors present a case of a serious complication after a stem cell injection for back pain and provide a systematic review of the literature of the efficacy of this treatment as well as the associated risks and complications.

METHODS A systematic review of the literature was performed using the PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus online electronic databases to identify articles reporting stem cell injections for axial back pain in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. The primary focus was on outcomes and complications. A case of glial hyperplasia of the roots of the cauda equina directly related to stem cell injections performed abroad is also reported.

RESULTS The authors identified 14 publications (including a total of 147 patients) that met the search criteria. Three of the articles presented data for the same patient population with different durations of follow-up and were thus analyzed as a single study, reducing the total number of studies to 12. In these 12 studies, follow-up periods ranged from 6 months to 6 years, with 50% having a follow-up period of 1 year or less. Most studies reported favorable outcomes, although 36% used subjective measures. There was a tendency for pain relief to wane after 6 months to 2 years, with patients seeking a surgical solution. Only 1 study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT).

CONCLUSIONS There are still insufficient data to support stem cell injections for back pain. Additional RCTs with longterm follow-up are necessary before statements can be made regarding the efficacy and safety.


Outcomes of endoscopic discectomy compared with open microdiscectomy and tubular microdiscectomy for lumbar disc herniations: a meta-analysis

J Neurosurg Spine 31:802–815, 2019

Endoscopic discectomy (ED) has been advocated as a less-invasive alternative to open microdiscectomy (OM) and tubular microdiscectomy (TM) for lumbar disc herniations, with the potential to decrease postoperative pain and shorten recovery times. Large-scale, objective comparisons of outcomes between ED, OM, and TM, however, are lacking. The authors’ objective in this study was to conduct a meta-analysis comparing outcomes of ED, OM, and TM.

METHODS The PubMed database was searched for articles published as of February 1, 2019, for comparative studies reporting outcomes of some combination of ED, OM, and TM. A meta-analysis of outcome parameters was performed assuming random effects.

RESULTS Twenty-six studies describing the outcomes of 2577 patients were included. Estimated blood loss was significantly higher with OM than with both TM (p = 0.01) and ED (p < 0.00001). Length of stay was significantly longer with OM than with ED (p < 0.00001). Return to work time was significantly longer in OM than with ED (p = 0.001). Postoperative leg (p = 0.02) and back (p = 0.01) VAS scores, and Oswestry Disability Index scores (p = 0.006) at latest follow-up were significantly higher for OM than for ED. Serum creatine phosphokinase (p = 0.02) and C-reactive protein (p < 0.00001) levels on postoperative day 1 were significantly higher with OM than with ED.

CONCLUSIONS Outcomes of TM and OM for lumbar disc herniations are largely equivalent. While this analysis demonstrated that several clinical variables were significantly improved in patients undergoing ED when compared with OM, the magnitude of many of these differences was small and of uncertain clinical relevance, and several of the included studies were retrospective and subject to a high risk of bias. Further high-quality prospective studies are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding the comparative efficacy of the various surgical treatments for lumbar disc herniations.


Safety and accuracy of robot-assisted versus fluoroscopy-assisted pedicle screw insertion in thoracolumbar spinal surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 30:615–622, 2019

The object of this study was to compare the safety and accuracy of pedicle screw placement using the TiRobot system versus conventional fluoroscopy in thoracolumbar spinal surgery.

METHODS Patients with degenerative or traumatic thoracolumbar spinal disorders requiring spinal instrumentation were randomly assigned to either the TiRobot-assisted group (RG) or the freehand fluoroscopy-assisted group (FG) at a 1:1 ratio. The primary outcome measure was the accuracy of screw placement according to the Gertzbein-Robbins scale; grades A and B (pedicle breach < 2 mm) were considered clinically acceptable. In the RG, discrepancies between the planned and actual screw placements were measured by merging postoperative CT images with the trajectory planning images. Secondary outcome parameters included proximal facet joint violation, duration of surgery, intraoperative blood loss, conversion to freehand approach in the RG, postoperative hospital stay, and radiation exposure.

RESULTS A total of 1116 pedicle screws were implanted in 234 patients (119 in the FG, and 115 in the RG). In the RG, 95.3% of the screws were perfectly positioned (grade A); the remaining screws were graded B (3.4%), C (0.9%), and D (0.4%). In the FG, 86.1% screws were perfectly positioned (grade A); the remaining screws were graded B (7.4%), C (4.6%), D (1.4%), and E (0.5%). The proportion of clinically acceptable screws was significantly greater in the RG than in the FG (p < 0.01). In the RG, the mean deviation was 1.5 ± 0.8 mm for each screw. The most common direction of screw deviation was lateral in the RG and medial in the FG. Two misplaced screws in the FG required revision surgery, whereas no revision was required in the RG. None of the screws in the RG violated the proximal facet joint, whereas 12 screws (2.1%) in the FG violated the proximal facet joint (p < 0.01). The RG had significantly less blood loss (186.0 ± 255.3 ml) than the FG (217.0 ± 174.3 ml; p < 0.05). There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of surgical time and postoperative hospital stay. The mean cumulative radiation time was 81.5 ± 38.6 seconds in the RG and 71.5 ± 44.2 seconds in the FG (p = 0.07). Surgeon radiation exposure was significantly less in the RG (21.7 ± 11.5 μSv) than in the FG (70.5 ± 42.0 μSv; p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS TiRobot-guided pedicle screw placement is safe and useful in thoracolumbar spinal surgery. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT02890043 (


Complications for minimally invasive lateral interbody arthrodesis: a systematic review and meta-analysis comparing prepsoas and transpsoas approaches

J Neurosurg Spine 30:446–460, 2019

Minimally invasive anterolateral retroperitoneal approaches for lumbar interbody arthrodesis have distinct advantages attractive to spine surgeons. Prepsoas or transpsoas trajectories can be employed with differing complication profiles because of the inherent anatomical differences encountered in each approach. The evidence comparing them remains limited because of poor quality data. Here, the authors sought to systematically review the available literature and perform a meta-analysis comparing the two techniques.

METHODS A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A database search was used to identify eligible studies. Prepsoas and transpsoas studies were compiled, and each study was assessed for inclusion criteria. Complication rates were recorded and compared between approach groups. Studies incorporating an analysis of postoperative subsidence and pseudarthrosis rates were also assessed and compared.

RESULTS For the prepsoas studies, 20 studies for the complications analysis and 8 studies for the pseudarthrosis outcomes analysis were included. For the transpsoas studies, 39 studies for the complications analysis and 19 studies for the pseudarthrosis outcomes analysis were included. For the complications analysis, 1874 patients treated via the prepsoas approach and 4607 treated with the transpsoas approach were included. In the transpsoas group, there was a higher rate of transient sensory symptoms (21.7% vs 8.7%, p = 0.002), transient hip flexor weakness (19.7% vs 5.7%, p < 0.001), and permanent neurological weakness (2.8% vs 1.0%, p = 0.005). A higher rate of sympathetic nerve injury was seen in the prepsoas group (5.4% vs 0.0%, p = 0.03). Of the nonneurological complications, major vascular injury was significantly higher in the prepsoas approach (1.8% vs 0.4%, p = 0.01). There was no difference in urological or peritoneal/bowel injury, postoperative ileus, or hematomas (all p > 0.05). A higher infection rate was noted for the trans-psoas group (3.1% vs 1.1%, p = 0.01). With regard to postoperative fusion outcomes, similar rates of subsidence (12.2% prepsoas vs 13.8% transpsoas, p = 0.78) and pseudarthrosis (9.9% vs 7.5%, respectively, p = 0.57) were seen between the groups at the last follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS Complication rates vary for the prepsoas and transpsoas approaches owing to the variable retroperitoneal anatomy encountered during surgical dissection. While the risks of a lasting motor deficit and transient sensory dis- turbances are higher for the transpsoas approach, there is a reciprocal reduction in the risks of major vascular injury and sympathetic nerve injury. These results can facilitate informed decision-making and tailored surgical planning regarding the choice of minimally invasive anterolateral access to the spine.

Use of the Airo mobile intraoperative CT system versus the O-arm for transpedicular screw fixation in the thoracic and lumbar spine

J Neurosurg Spine 29:397–406, 2018

Navigation-enabling technology such as 3D-platform (O-arm) or intraoperative mobile CT (iCT-Airo) systems for use in spinal surgery has considerably improved accuracy over that of traditional fluoroscopy-guided techniques during pedicular screw positioning. In this study, the authors compared 2 intraoperative imaging systems with navigation, available in their neurosurgical unit, in terms of the accuracy they provided for transpedicular screw fixation in the thoracic and lumbar spine.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective analysis of clinical and surgical data of 263 consecutive patients who underwent thoracic and lumbar spine screw placement in the same center. Data on 97 patients who underwent surgery with iCT-Airo navigation (iCT-Airo group) and 166 with O-arm navigation (O-arm group) were analyzed. Most patients underwent surgery for a degenerative or traumatic condition that involved thoracic and lumbar pedicle screw fixation using an open or percutaneous technique. The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients with at least 1 screw not correctly positioned according to the last intraoperative image. Secondary endpoints were the proportion of screws that were repositioned during surgery, the proportion of patients with a postoperative complication related to screw malposition, surgical time, and radiation exposure. A blinded radiologist graded screw positions in the last intraoperative image according to the Heary classification (grade 1–3 screws were considered correctly placed).

RESULTS A total of 1361 screws placed in 97 patients in the iCT-Airo group (503 screws) and in 166 in the O-arm group (858 screws) were graded. Of those screws, 3 (0.6%) in the iCT-Airo group and 4 (0.5%) in the O-arm group were misplaced. No statistically significant difference in final accuracy between these 2 groups or in the subpopulation of patients who underwent percutaneous surgery was found. Three patients in the iCT-Airo group (3.1%, 95% CI 0%–6.9%) and 3 in the O-arm group (1.8%, 95% CI 0%–4.0%) had a misplaced screw (Heary grade 4 or 5). Seven (1.4%) screws in the iCT-Airo group and 37 (4.3%) in the O-arm group were repositioned intraoperatively (p = 0.003). One patient in the iCT-Airo group and 2 in the O-arm group experienced postoperative neurological deficits related to hardware malposition. The mean surgical times in both groups were similar (276 [iCT-Airo] and 279 [O-arm] minutes). The mean exposure to radiation in the iCT-Airo group was significantly lower than that in the O-arm group (15.82 vs 19.12 mSv, respectively; p = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS Introduction of a mobile CT scanner reduced the rate of screw repositioning, which enhanced patient safety and diminished radiation exposure for patients, but it did not improve overall accuracy compared to that of a mobile 3D platform.


Radiological adjacent-segment degeneration in L4–5 spondylolisthesis: comparison between dynamic stabilization and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine 29:250–258, 2018

Pedicle screw–based dynamic stabilization has been an alternative to conventional lumbar fusion for the surgical management of low-grade spondylolisthesis. However, the true effect of dynamic stabilization on adjacent segment degeneration (ASD) remains undetermined. Authors of this study aimed to investigate the incidence of ASD and to compare the clinical outcomes of dynamic stabilization and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MI-TLIF).

METHODS The records of consecutive patients with Meyerding grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis who had undergone surgical management at L4–5 in the period from 2007 to 2014 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were divided into two groups according to the surgery performed: Dynesys dynamic stabilization (DDS) group and MI-TLIF group. Pre- and postoperative radiological evaluations, including radiography, CT, and MRI studies, were compared. Adjacent discs were evaluated using 4 radiological parameters: instability (antero- or retrolisthesis), disc degeneration (Pfirrmann classification), endplate degeneration (Modic classification), and range of motion (ROM). Clinical outcomes, measured with the visual analog scale (VAS) for back and leg pain, the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scores, were also compared.

RESULTS A total of 79 patients with L4–5 degenerative spondylolisthesis were included in the analysis. During a mean follow-up of 35.2 months (range 24–89 months), there were 56 patients in the DDS group and 23 in the MI-TLIF group. Prior to surgery, both groups were very similar in demographic, radiological, and clinical data. Postoperation, both groups had similarly significant improvement in clinical outcomes (VAS, ODI, and JOA scores) at each time point of evaluation. There was a lower chance of disc degeneration (Pfirrmann classification) of the adjacent discs in the DDS group than in the MI-TLIF group (17% vs 37%, p = 0.01). However, the DDS and MI-TLIF groups had similar rates of instability (15.2% vs 17.4%, respectively, p = 0.92) and endplate degeneration (1.8% vs 6.5%, p = 0.30) at the cranial (L3–4) and caudal (L5–S1) adjacent levels after surgery. The mean ROM in the cranial and caudal levels was also similar in the two groups. None of the patients required secondary surgery for any ASD (defined by radiological criteria).

CONCLUSIONS The clinical improvements after DDS were similar to those following MI-TLIF for L4–5 Meyerding grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis at 3 years postoperation. According to radiological evaluations, there was a lower chance of disc degeneration in the adjacent levels of the patients who had undergone DDS. However, other radiological signs of ASD, including instability, endplate degeneration, and ROM, were similar between the two groups. Although none of the patients in the present series required secondary surgery, a longer follow-up and a larger number of patients would be necessary to corroborate the protective effect of DDS against ASD.

Prognostic Factors for Satisfaction After Decompression Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Neurosurgery 82:645–651, 2018

Surgical treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis is associated with both short- and long-term benefits with improvements in patient function and pain. Even though most patients are satisfied postoperatively, some studies report that up to onethird of patients are dissatisfied.

OBJECTIVE: To present clinical outcome data and identify prognostic factors related to patient satisfaction 1 yr after posterior decompression surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis.

METHODS: This multicenter register study included 2562 patients. Patients were treated with various types of posterior decompression. Patients with previous spine surgery or concomitant fusion were excluded. Patient satisfaction was analyzed for associations with age, sex, body mass index, smoking status, duration of pain, number of decompressed vertebral levels, comorbidities, and patient-reported outcome measures,which were used to quantify the effect of the surgical intervention.

RESULTS: At 1-yr follow-up, 62.4% of patients were satisfied but 15.1% reported dissatisfaction. The satisfied patients showed significantly greater improvement in all outcome measures compared to the dissatisfied patients. The outcome scores for the dissatisfied patients were relatively unchanged or worse compared to baseline. Association was seen between dissatisfaction, duration of leg pain, smoking status, and patient comorbidities. Patients with good walking capacity at baseline were less prone to be dissatisfied compared to patients with poor walking capacity.

CONCLUSION: This study found smoking, long duration of leg pain, and cancerous and neurological disease to be associated with patient dissatisfaction, whereas good walking capacity at baseline was positively associated with satisfaction after 1 yr.

Prospective, randomized, multicenter study with 2-year follow-up to compare the performance of decompression with and without interlaminar stabilization

J Neurosurg Spine 28:406–415, 2018

Surgical decompression is extremely effective in relieving pain and symptoms due to lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). Decompression with interlaminar stabilization (D+ILS) is as effective as decompression with posterolateral fusion for stenosis, as shown in a major US FDA pivotal trial. This study reports a multicenter, randomized controlled trial in which D+ILS was compared with decompression alone (DA) for treatment of moderate to severe LSS.

METHODS Under approved institutional ethics review, 230 patients (1:1 ratio) randomized to either DA or D+ILS (coflex, Paradigm Spine) were treated at 7 sites in Germany. Patients had moderate to severe LSS at 1 or 2 adjacent segments from L-3 to L-5. Outcomes were evaluated up to 2 years postoperatively, including Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores, the presence of secondary surgery or lumbar injections, neurological status, and the presence of device- or procedure-related severe adverse events. The composite clinical success (CCS) was defined as combining all 4 of these outcomes, a success definition validated in a US FDA pivotal trial. Additional secondary end points included visual analog scale (VAS) scores, Zürich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ) scores, narcotic usage, walking tolerance, and radiographs.

RESULTS The overall follow-up rate was 91% at 2 years. There were no significant differences in patient-reported outcomes at 24 months (p > 0.05). The CCS was superior for the D+ILS arm (p = 0.017). The risk of secondary intervention was 1.75 times higher among patients in the DA group than among those in the D+ILS group (p = 0.055). The DA arm had 228% more lumbar injections (4.5% for D+ILS vs 14.8% for DA; p = 0.0065) than the D+ILS one. Patients who underwent DA had a numerically higher rate of narcotic use at every time point postsurgically (16.7% for D+ILS vs 23% for DA at 24 months). Walking Distance Test results were statistically significantly different from baseline; the D+ILS group had > 2 times the improvement of the DA. The patients who underwent D+ILS had > 5 times the improvement from baseline compared with only 2 times the improvement from baseline for the DA group. Foraminal height and disc height were largely maintained in patients who underwent D+ILS, whereas patients treated with DA showed a significant decrease at 24 months postoperatively (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS This study showed no significant difference in the individual patient-reported outcomes (e.g., ODI, VAS, ZCQ) between the treatments when viewed in isolation. The CCS (survivorship, ODI success, absence of neurological deterioration or device- or procedure-related severe adverse events) is statistically superior for ILS. Microsurgical D+ILS increases walking distance, decreases compensatory pain management, and maintains radiographic foraminal height, extending the durability and sustainability of a decompression procedure. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT01316211 (