Effect of Lumbar Discectomy or Lumbar Decompression on Axial Back Pain: Results of a Meta-Analysis

World Neurosurg. (2023) 177:109-121

This meta-analysis evaluated the impact of lumbar disk herniation and lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) on axial back pain and the extent of improvement of axial and radicular pain following lumbar decompression and discectomy surgery in patients with low back pain (LBP).

METHODS: A systematic search for published literature between January 2012 and January 2023 was made on PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane library database on 31 st January 2023.

Original articles that included patients with lumbar disc herniation or LSS who underwent lumbar discectomy or lumbar decompression respectively were included in the study.

RESULTS: A total of 71 studies including 16,770 patients with LBP undergoing lumbar discectomy or decompression surgery were included in the metaanalysis. The pooled standard mean difference between postoperative and preoperative: Visual Analog Scale scores for leg pain was L5.14 with 95% confidence interval (CI): L6.59 to L3.69 (P-value [ 0) and for back pain was L2.90 with 95% CI: L3.79 to L2.01 (P value [ 0), Numerical pain Rating Scale for leg pain was L1.64 with 95% CI: L1.97 to L1.30 (P-value<0.01) and for back pain was L1.58 with 95% CI: L1.84 to L1.32 (P-value <0.01), Oswerty Disability Index score was L4.76 with 95% CI: L6.22 to L3.29 (P-value [ 0) and the Japanese Orthopaedic Association score was 3.45 with 95% CI: 0.02 to 6.88 (P value 0) at follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis provides evidence that lumbar discectomy and decompression are effective in improving axial LBP in patients with lumbar disk herniation and LSS.


Characteristics of Sagittal Spinopelvic Alignment Changes After Symptom Relief After Simple Lumbar Decompression

 Neurosurgery 91:331–338, 2022

Sagittal spinopelvic alignment (SSPA) parameters are essential for the diagnosis of adult spinal deformities (ASDs) and their progression. Certain clinical symptoms that occur in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) and herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) may distort the SSPA and mimic ASD.

OBJECTIVE: To differentiate SSPA in symptomatic patients from asymptomatic patients within 10 minutes in the standing position.

METHODS: This retrospective cohort study evaluated changes in SSPA after simple lumbar decompression surgery in patients with LSS and HNP. Relative sagittal alignment (RSA), relative pelvic version, relative lumbar lordosis (RLL), Lordosis Distribution Index (LDI), and global alignment and proportion (GAP) values were calculated using the conventional Schwab classification method. First, the preoperative and postoperative SSPA parameters were compared. Second, patients were subgrouped into symptomatic within 10 minutes of standing (SP group) and other symptoms of LSS and HNP as controls. Changes in SSPA parameters after symptom relief after simple lumbar decompression surgery were compared between the two groups.

RESULTS: Overall, all SSPA parameters improved after surgery. However, after subgrouping, patients in the control group did not show significant SSPA alterations, except for LDI, whereas patients in the SP group significantly improved in terms of their RSA, RLL, LDI, and GAP values after symptom relief after surgery.

CONCLUSION: Patients with pain on standing within 10 minutes showed significant correction in RSA, RLL, and GAP values after simple lumbar decompression. Therefore, it is important to observe such clinical symptoms to avoid misdiagnosis of ASD.

Endplate defects, not the severity of spinal stenosis, contribute to low back pain in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis

The Spine Journal 22 (2022) 370−378

It is controversial whether lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) itself contributes to low back pain (LBP). Lower truncal skeletal muscle mass, spinopelvic malalignment, intervertebral disc degeneration, and endplate abnormalities are thought to be related to LBP. However, whether these factors cause LBP in patients with LSS is unclear.PURPOSE: To identify factors associated with LBP in patients with LSS.

STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Cross-sectional design.

PATIENT SAMPLE: A total of 260 patients (119 men and 141 women, average age 72.8 years) with neurogenic claudication caused by LSS, as confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

OUTCOME MEASURES: Ratings of LBP, buttock and leg pain, and numbness on a numerical rating scale (NRS), 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36) scores, muscle mass measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis, and radiographic measurements including slippage and lumbopelvic alignment. The severity of LSS, endplate defects, Modic endplate changes, intervertebral disc degeneration, and facet joint osteoarthritis were assessed on MRI.

METHODS: The presence of LBP was defined as an NRS score ≥3. The demographic data, patient-reported outcomes, and radiological and MRI findings were compared between patients with and without LBP. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify the factors that were independently associated with the presence of LBP.

RESULTS: There were significant differences between patients with and without LBP for buttock and leg pain and numbness on the NRS, general health on the SF-36, presence of endplate defects, presence of Modic changes, disc degeneration grading, and disc height grading (all p < .05). Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed significant associations between LBP and diabetes (OR 2.43; 95% CI 1.07−5.53), buttock and leg numbness on the NRS (OR 1.34; 95% CI 1.17−1.52), general health on the SF-36 (OR 0.97; 95% CI 0.95−0.99), and the presence of erosive endplate defects (OR 3.04; 95% CI 1.51−6.11) (all p < .05).

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that LBP in patients with LSS should be carefully assessed not only for spinal stenosis but also clinical factors and endplate defects.

The effect of minimally invasive lumbar decompression surgery on sagittal spinopelvic alignment in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis

J Neurosurg Spine 35:177–184, 2021

Several studies have examined the relationship between sagittal spinopelvic alignment and clinical outcomes after spinal surgery. However, the long-term reciprocal changes in sagittal spinopelvic alignment in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis after decompression surgery remain unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate radiographic changes in sagittal spinopelvic alignment and clinical outcomes at the 2-year and 5-year follow-ups after minimally invasive lumbar decompression surgery.

METHODS The authors retrospectively studied the medical records of 110 patients who underwent bilateral decompression via a unilateral approach for lumbar spinal stenosis. Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) and visual analog scale (VAS) scores for low-back pain (LBP), leg pain, leg numbness, and spinopelvic parameters were evaluated before surgery and at the 2-year and 5-year follow-ups. Sagittal malalignment was defined as a sagittal vertical axis (SVA) ≥ 50 mm.

RESULTS Compared with baseline, lumbar lordosis significantly increased after decompression surgery at the 2-year (30.2° vs 38.5°, respectively; p < 0.001) and 5-year (30.2° vs 35.7°, respectively; p < 0.001) follow-ups. SVA significantly decreased at the 2-year follow-up compared with baseline (36.1 mm vs 51.5 mm, respectively; p < 0.001). However, there was no difference in SVA at the 5-year follow-up compared with baseline (50.6 mm vs 51.5 mm, respectively; p = 0.812). At the 5-year follow-up, 82.5% of patients with preoperative normal alignment maintained normal alignment, whereas 42.6% of patients with preoperative malalignment developed normal alignment. Preoperative sagittal malalignment was associated with the VAS score for LBP at baseline and 2-year and 5-year follow-ups and the JOA score at the 5-year follow-up. Postoperative sagittal malalignment was associated with the VAS score for LBP at the 2-year and 5-year follow-ups and the VAS score for leg pain at the 5-year follow-up. There was a trend toward deterioration in clinical outcomes in patients with persistent postural malalignment compared with other patients.

CONCLUSIONS After minimally invasive surgery, spinal sagittal malalignment can convert to normal alignment at both short-term and long-term follow-ups. Sagittal malalignment has a negative impact on the VAS score for LBP and a weakly negative impact on the JOA score after decompression surgery.

Association between payer status and patient-reported outcomes in adult patients with lumbar spinal stenosis treated with decompression surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 30:198–210, 2019

Insurance disparities can have relevant effects on outcomes after elective lumbar spinal surgery. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between private/public payer status and patient-reported outcomes in adult patients who underwent decompression surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis.

METHODS A sample of 100 patients who underwent surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis from 2012 to 2014 was evaluated as part of the prospectively collected Quality Outcomes Database at a single institution. Outcome measures were evaluated at 3 months and 12 months, analyzed in regard to payer status (private insurance vs Medicare/Veterans Affairs insurance), and adjusted for potential confounders.

RESULTS At baseline, patients had similar visual analog scale back and leg pain, Oswestry Disability Index, and EQ- 5D scores. At 3 months postintervention, patients with government-funded insurance reported significantly worse quality of life (mean difference 0.11, p < 0.001) and more leg pain (mean difference 1.26, p = 0.05). At 12 months, patients with government-funded insurance reported significantly worse quality of life (mean difference 0.14, p < 0.001). There were no significant differences at 3 months or 12 months between groups for back pain (p = 0.14 and 0.43) or disability (p = 0.19 and 0.15). Across time points, patients in both groups showed improvement at 3 months and 12 months in all 4 functional outcomes compared with baseline (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS Both private and public insurance patients had significant improvement after elective lumbar spinal surgery. Patients with public insurance had slightly less improvement in quality of life after surgery than those with private insurance but still benefited greatly from surgical intervention, particularly with respect to functional status.

Percutaneous Interspinous Spacer vs Decompression in Patients with Neurogenic Claudication

Neurosurgery 82:621–629, 2018

Standalone interspinous process devices (IPDs) to treat degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis with neurogenic intermittent claudication (NIC) have shown ambiguous results in the literature.

OBJECTIVE: To show that a minimally invasive percutaneous IPD is safe and noninferior to standalone decompressive surgery (SDS) for patients with degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis with NIC.

METHODS: A multicenter, international, randomized, controlled trial (RCT) was conducted. One hundred sixty-three patients, enrolled at 19 sites, were randomized 1:1 to treatment with IPD or SDS and were followed for 24 mo.

RESULTS: There was significant improvement in Zurich Claudication Questionnaire physical function, as mean percentage change from baseline, for both the IPD and the SDS groups at 12 mo (primary endpoint) and 24 mo (−32.3 ± 32.1, −37.5 ± 22.8; and −37.9 ± 21.7%, −35.2 ± 22.8, both P < .001). IPD treatment was not significantly noninferior (margin: 10%) to SDS treatment at 12mo (P=.172) but was significantly noninferior at 24mo (P = .005). Symptom severity, patient satisfaction, visual analog scale leg pain, and SF-36 improved in both groups over time. IPD showed lower mean surgical time andmean blood loss (24 ± 11 min and 6 ± 11 mL) compared to SDS (70 ± 39 min and 189 ± 148 mL, both P < .001). Reoperations at index level occurred in 18.2% of the patients in the IPD group and in 9.3%in the SDS group.

CONCLUSION: Confirming 3 recent RCTs, we could show that IPD as well as open decompression achieve similar results in relieving symptoms of NIC in highly selected patients. However, despite some advantages in secondary outcomes, a higher reoperation rate for IPD is confirmed.

Is Eighty the New Sixty? Outcomes and Complications after Lumbar Decompression Surgery in Elderly Patients over 80 Years of Age

World Neurosurg. (2018) 112:e555-e560.

An increasing demographic aging of the general population results in a rising incidence of octogenarians and nonagenarians with spine disease. Patients older than 65 years represent the majority of patients with degenerative lumbar spine disease in our daily clinical routine. Surgical treatment is undertaken reluctantly because of an increased rate of comorbidities. We therefore assessed complication rates of lumbar decompression in regard to neurological outcome and medical conditions in patients age 80 years or older in a retrospective singlecenter series.

METHODS: Data for 244 patients (124 female, 120 male; mean age, 83.1  3 years; age range, 80e95 years) who underwent decompressive surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis or disc herniation between April 2007 and February 2016 were assessed retrospectively. Age at surgery, neurologic deficits (preoperative and postoperative), relevant medical comorbidities and previous lumbar decompression, intraoperative and postoperative complications (e.g., surgery-related, medical), duration of surgery, length of hospital stay, and rate of revision surgeries were recorded.

RESULTS: Surgery was performed for lumbar stenosis (184 patients; 75.4%), lumbar disc herniation (13 patients; 5.3%) or both (47 patients; 19.3%). Seventy-six patients (31.3%) patients experienced preoperative neurologic deficits; 48 (63.2%) of these patients improved, 28 (36.8%) of them were unchanged after surgery, and none deteriorated. New transient, postoperative, neurologic deficits occurred in 6 patients (2.5%). All 55 (22.5%) intraoperative complications were mild to moderate, and no severe surgical complications occurred. Two hundred fifteen patients (88%) had relevant medical disorders. Nineteen (7.7%) postoperative medical complications were reported in 17 patients (7%), of which 14 (73.7%) were severe and 5 (26.3%) were mild (4 pulmonary embolisms, 6 pneumonias, 3 myocardial infarctions, 1 postoperative renal failure, 5 urinary tract infections). Medical complications that necessitated intensive care unit treatment and resulted in lethal outcome were seen in 2 patients (0.8%).

CONCLUSION: Despite their age, the vast majority of octogenarians and nonagenarians benefited from lumbar decompression surgery. Mild to moderate intraoperative complications were relatively frequent, whereas severe intraoperative complications did not occur. The majority of medical complications was severe, but the incidence was acceptable, and the postoperative outcome was still favorable in most patients

Impact of obesity on complications and outcomes: a comparison of fusion and nonfusion lumbar spine surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 26:158–162, 2017

Prior studies have shown obesity to be associated with higher complication rates but equivalent clinical outcomes following lumbar spine surgery. These findings have been reproducible across lumbar spine surgery in general and for lumbar fusion specifically. Nevertheless, surgeons seem inclined to limit the extent of surgery, perhaps opting for decompression alone rather than decompression plus fusion, in obese patients. The purpose of this study was to ascertain any difference in clinical improvement or complication rates between obese and nonobese patients following decompression alone compared with decompression plus fusion for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).

Methods: The Quality Outcomes Database (QOD), formerly known as the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N 2 QOD), was queried for patients who had undergone decompression plus fusion (D+F group) versus decompression alone (D+0 group) for LSS and were stratified by a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m 2 (obese) or < 30 kg/m 2 (nonobese). Demographic, surgical, and health-related quality of life data were compared.

Results: In the nonobese cohort, 947 patients underwent decompression alone and 319 underwent decompression plus fusion. In the obese cohort, 844 patients had decompression alone and 337 had decompression plus fusion. There were no significant differences in the Oswestry Disability Index score or in leg pain improvement at 12 months when comparing decompression with fusion to decompression without fusion in either obese or nonobese cohorts. However, absolute improvement in back pain was less in the obese group when decompression alone had been performed. Blood loss and operative time were lowest in the nonobese D+0 cohort and were higher in obese patients with or without fusion. Obese patients had a longer hospital stay (4.1 days) than the nonobese patients (3.3 days) when fusion had been performed. In-hospital stay was similar in both obese and nonobese D+0 cohorts. No significant differences were seen in 30-day readmission rates among the 4 cohorts.

Conclusions: Consistent with the prior literature, equivalent clinical outcomes were found among obese and non-obese patients treated for LSS. In addition, no difference in clinical outcomes as related to the extent of the surgical procedure was observed between obese and nonobese patients. Within the D+0 group, the nonobese patients had slightly better back pain scores at 2 years postoperatively. There may be a higher blood product requirement in obese patients following spine surgery, as well as an extended hospital stay, when fusion is performed. While obesity may influence the decision for or against surgery, the data suggest that obesity should not necessarily alter the appropriate procedure for well-selected surgical candidates.

Back pain improvement after decompression without fusion or stabilization in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis and clinically significant preoperative back pain

lumbar stenosis

J Neurosurg Spine 25:596–601, 2016

The relief of leg symptoms by surgical decompression for lumbar stenosis is well supported by the literature. Less is known about the effect on back pain. Some surgeons believe that the relief of back pain should not be an expected outcome of decompression and that substantial back pain may be a contraindication to decompression only; therefore, stabilization may be recommended for patients with substantial preoperative back pain even in the absence of well-accepted indications for stabilization such as spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, or sagittal malalignment. The purpose of this study is to determine if patients with lumbar stenosis and substantial back pain—in the absence of spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, or sagittal malalignment—can obtain significant improvement after decompression without fusion or stabilization.

Methods Analysis of the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N2QOD) identified 726 patients with lumbar stenosis (without spondylolisthesis or scoliosis) and a baseline back pain score ≥ 5 of 10 who underwent surgical decompression only. No patient was reported to have significant spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, or sagittal malalignment. Standard demographic and surgical variables were collected, as well as patient outcomes including back and leg pain scores, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and EuroQoL 5D (EQ-5D) at baseline and 3 and 12 months postoperatively.

Results The mean age of the cohort was 65.6 years, and 407 (56%) patients were male. The mean body mass index was 30.2 kg/m2, and 40% of patients had 2-level decompression, 29% had 3-level decompression, 24% had 1-level decompression, and 6% had 4-level decompression. The mean estimated blood loss was 130 ml. The mean operative time was 100.85 minutes. The vast majority of discharges (88%) were routine home discharges. At 3 and 12 months postoperatively, there were significant improvements from baseline for back pain (7.62 to 3.19 to 3.66), leg pain (7.23 to 2.85 to 3.07), EQ-5D (0.55 to 0.76 to 0.75), and ODI (49.11 to 27.20 to 26.38).

Conclusions Through the 1st postoperative year, patients with lumbar stenosis—without spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, or sagittal malalignment—and clinically significant back pain improved after decompression-only surgery.

Microsurgical unilateral laminotomy for decompression of lumbar spinal stenosis

Microsurgical unilateral laminotomy for decompression of lumbar spinal stenosis

Acta Neurochir (2016) 158:1103–1113

The microsurgical unilateral laminotomy (MUL) technique for bilateral decompression of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a less destabilizing alternative to laminectomy and leads to good short-term outcomes. However, little is known about the long-term results including predictive factors.

Methods: Medical records of patients who underwent MUL for LSS decompression between 2005 and 2010 were reviewed, and a questionnaire was distributed to complement the long-term outcome data. The study population consisted of 176 patients including 17 patients with stable grade I spondylolisthesis. Complications and reoperations were meticulously analyzed. Clinical outcome was measured using a modified Prolo scale and was further dichotomized in good vs. poor outcome. Predictive factors were obtained from uni- and multivariate analyses.

Results: The median age of the cohort was 70.0 years and the follow-up 71.7 months. Complications occurred in 5.1%of the patients. The overall reoperation rate was 17.0 %, including surgery, which was exclusively performed at other levels in 4.0 %. The reoperation rate for fusion was 4.5 %. Good neurogenic claudication outcome faded from 98.3 % at hospital discharge to 47.2 % at 6 years. Multivariate analysis identified previous lumbar operation as a potential independent predictor of a reoperation; potential independent predictors of poor longterm claudication outcome were older age, female gender, higher body mass index (BMI) and tobacco smoking.

Conclusions: In our experience, the long-term reoperation rate after MUL for LSS is not negligible and higher in previously operated patients. It seems like the good initial clinical results after MUL may fade over time, and several patient-related predictive factors including potentially modifiable obesity and tobacco smoking seem to play an important role.

X-Stop Versus Decompressive Surgery for Lumbar Neurogenic Intermittent Claudication


Spine 2013 ;38:1436–1442

Objective. To compare the outcome of indirect decompression by means of the X-Stop (Medtronics Inc., Minneapolis, MN) implant with conventional decompression in patients with neurogenic intermittent claudication due to lumbar spinal stenosis.

Summary of Background Data. Decompression is currently the “gold standard” for lumbar spinal stenosis but is affl icted with complications and a certain number of dissatisfi ed patients. Interspinous implants have been on the market for more than 10 years, but no prospective study comparing its outcome with decompression has been performed.

Methods. After power calculation, 100 patients were included: 50 in the X-Stop group and 50 in the decompression group. Patients with symptomatic 1- or 2-level lumbar spinal stenosis and neurogenic claudication relieved on fl exion were included. X-Stop operations were performed under local anesthesia. The mean patient age was 69 (49–89) years, and the male/female distribution was 56/44. Minimal dural sac area was in all cases except two 80 mm 2 or less. The noninferiority hypothesis included 6, 12, and 24 months of follow-up, and included. intention-to-treat as well as as-treated analyses. The primary outcome meansure was the Zürich Claudication Questionnaire, and the secondary outcome measures was the visual analogue scale pain, Short-Form 36 (SF-36), complications, and reoperations.

Results. The primary and secondary outcome measures of patients in both groups improved signifi cantly. The results were similar at 6, 12, and 24 months and at no time point could any statistical difference between the 2 types of surgery be identifi ed. Three patients (6%) in the decompression group underwent further surgery, compared with 13 patients (26%) in the X-Stop group ( P = 0.04). Results were identical in intention-to-treat and astreated analyses.

Conclusion. For spinal stenosis with neurogenic claudication, decompressive surgery as well as X-Stop are appropriate procedures. Similar results were achieved in both groups, however, with a higher number of reoperations in the X-Stop group. Patients having X-Stop removal and decompression experienced results similar to those randomized to primary decompression.

Level of Evidence: 1

Failure of Percutaneous Remodeling of the Ligamentum Flavum and Lamina for Neurogenic Claudication

Neurosurgery 71:86–92, 2012 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e31825356f5

Percutaneous remodeling of the ligamentum flavum and lamina (PRLL), commercially known as minimally invasive lumbar decompression (mild technique), relies on fluoroscopy and epidural contrast to direct surgical instruments via a 6-mm cannula.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of PRLL and present, to our knowledge, the first reported imaging findings after PRLL.

METHODS: We performed a prospective study of PRLL for neurogenic claudication. Primary outcomes were Oswestry Disability Index, Short-Form 12 version 2.0 health survey, and visual analog scale for pain at 26 weeks. Analgesic use was also assessed. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging was performed at 12 weeks. Long-term failure, defined as the poststudy need for secondary surgery, was assessed up to 18 months.

RESULTS: Ten subjects with an average age of 64 years (range, 41-81 years) were treated between September 2008 and January 2009. There were no major adverse events. Mean postoperative visual analog scale score remained significantly reduced throughout 26 weeks (P =.015, analysis of variance). Mean postoperative Oswestry Disability Index was also improved by 1 week and remained significant throughout 26 weeks (P = .024; analysis of variance). However, there was a trend toward increased reliance on narcotic type medications postoperatively. Imaging studies did not show significant decompression of the spinal canal in any patient. In the poststudy period, recurrent claudication requiring laminectomy developed in 6 patients (60%).

CONCLUSION: Throughout 26 weeks, pain and disability scores were decreased; however, PRLL did not improve the degree of stenosis on imaging studies. Although PRLL appears to be safe in this small cohort of patients, poststudy outcomes indicate that the failure rate is unacceptably high.


Occult Spinous Process Fractures Associated With Interspinous Process Spacers

Spine 2011;36:E1080–E1085. DOI: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e318204066a

Biomechanical cadaveric studies have suggested adequate spinous process strength to support placement of interspinous process spacers (IPS). Postoperative spinous process fractures have been reported in one%—to 5.8% of patients in previous series based on routine biplanar radiographic evaluation. However, most fractures occur between the base and midportion of the spinous process in an area that is typically diffi cult to visualize on plain radiographs due to device design.

Methods. All patients underwent preoperative biplanar plain radiographs and computed tomography (CT) of the lumbar spine to confirm anatomy favorable for IPS placement and rule out fracture or spondylolysis. Postoperatively, all patients underwent repeat CT imaging within six months of surgery, biplanar radiographs at two weeks, six weeks, three months, six months, and one year. All studies were reviewed independently by a neuroradiologist and two orthopedic spine surgeons.

Results. Fifty implants (38 L4–5, 12 L3–4) were placed in 38 patients who completed follow-up and were included in final analysis. Three IPS designs were included (34 Medtronic X-STOP titanium, 8 X-STOP PEEK, 8 Lanx Aspen). Postoperative CT revealed 11 nondisplaced spinous process fractures in 11 patients (28.9% of patients, 22% of levels). Five fractures were associated with mild to moderate lumbar back pain and six fractures were asymptomatic. No patient reported a traumatic incident. No fracture was identifiable on plain radiographs. One fracture displaced during follow-up evaluation. Three patients underwent IPS removal and laminectomy. Three fractures healed by CT in one year. Overall, patients with fractures tended toward poorer outcomes by Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ) (28.5% vs. 34.8% improvement in symptom severity, P=  0.496; 21.4% vs. 30.7% improvement in physical function, P = 0.199) and tended toward lower satisfaction rates (50% vs. 73.7%, P = 0.24) at one year compared to patients without fracture.

Conclusion. Interspinous process spacer surgery appears associated with a higher rate of early postoperative spinous process fracture than previously reported. In all cases, in this series, plain radiographs were inadequate to identify fractures because all fractures were initially minimal or nondisplaced, many patients were osteopenic, and the metallic wings of the devices often obscured fractures. Moreover, in most patients, fractures were associated with mild or no acute localized pain. This study suggests that unrecognized spinous process fracture may be responsible for a signifi cant number of patients who experience unsatisfactory outcome after IPS surgery. CT imaging is required to identify the vast majority of such fractures.

Lumbar spinal stenosis in elderly patients: is a unilateral microsurgical approach sufficient for decompression?

J Neurosurg Spine 14:305–312, 2011. DOI: 10.3171/2010.10.SPINE09708

For the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis, less invasive procedures, which preserve maximal bony and ligamentous structures, have been recommended to reduce associated morbidity. The authors examined the outcome after decompression of spinal stenosis in the elderly by comparing 3 different surgical approaches. Their focus was whether a unilateral microsurgical decompression provided sufficient outcomes in the elderly population.

Methods. The authors investigated 108 elderly patients (age ≥ 60 years) with lumbar spinal stenosis (mean age 71 years [range 60–93 years]) who underwent surgery between 2004 and June 2006 at the authors’ institution. Three different modes of decompression were analyzed in this study: a unilateral partial hemilaminectomy, a hemilaminectomy, and a laminectomy. The outcome was assessed 12 months postoperatively using the Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale and the Hannover Functional Back Pain Questionnaire.

Results. The authors performed a unilateral partial hemilaminectomy in 53 patients (49%). Patients who underwent unilateral partial hemilaminectomies achieved favorable results of at least 80% as assessed using the Quebec Back Pain Disability Scale and Hannover Functional Back Pain Questionnaire. Hemilaminectomies were performed in 45 patients (41.7%), and laminectomies were performed in 10 patients (9.3%). However, there was no statistically significant difference between the various techniques regarding the postoperative results (p < 0.05).

Conclusions. Laminectomies did not show any advantage when compared with unilateral transmedian approaches. A unilateral partial hemilaminectomy combined with a transmedian decompression sufficiently treated the stenosis. This method seemed advantageous in minimizing the procedure and associated morbidity in this elderly population. Further investigations with long-term results (> 5 years) are still necessary.

Trends, Major Medical Complications, and Charges Associated With Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis in Older Adults

JAMA. 2010;303(13):1259-1265

In recent decades, the fastest growth in lumbar surgery occurred in older patients with spinal stenosis. Trials indicate that for selected patients, decompressive surgery offers an advantage over nonoperative treatment, but surgeons often recommend more invasive fusion procedures. Comorbidity is common in older patients, so benefits and risks must be carefully weighed in the choice of surgical procedure.

Objective: To examine trends in use of different types of stenosis operations and the association of complications and resource use with surgical complexity.

Design, Setting, and Patients: Retrospective cohort analysis of Medicare claims for 2002-2007, focusing on 2007 to assess complications and resource use in US hospitals. Operations for Medicare recipients undergoing surgery for lumbar stenosis (n=32 152 in the first 11 months of 2007) were grouped into 3 gradations of invasiveness: decompression alone, simple fusion (1 or 2 disk levels, single surgical approach), or complex fusion (more than 2 disk levels or combined anterior and posterior approach).

Main Outcome Measures: Rates of the 3 types of surgery, major complications, postoperative mortality, and resource use.

Results: Overall, surgical rates declined slightly from 2002-2007, but the rate of complex fusion procedures increased 15-fold, from 1.3 to 19.9 per 100.000 beneficiaries. Lifethreatening complications increased with increasing surgical invasiveness, from 2.3% among patients having decompression alone to 5.6% among those having complex fusions. After adjustment for age, comorbidity, previous spine surgery, and other features, the odds ratio (OR) of life-threatening complications for complex fusion compared with decompression alone was 2.95 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.50-3.49). A similar pattern was observed for rehospitalization within 30 days, which occurred for 7.8% of patients undergoing decompression and 13.0% having a complex fusion (adjusted OR, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.74-2.17). Adjusted mean hospital charges for complex fusion procedures were US $80.888 compared with US $23.724 for decompression alone.

Conclusions: Among Medicare recipients, between 2002 and 2007, the frequency of complex fusion procedures for spinal stenosis increased while the frequency of decompression surgery and simple fusions decreased. In 2007, compared with decompression, simple fusion and complex fusion were associated with increased risk of major complications, 30-day mortality, and resource use.

Outcome After Surgical Treatment for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. The Lumbar Extension Test Is Not a Predictive Factor

Spine 2009;34:E930–E935

Study Design. A prospective clinical study.

Objectives. To investigate the predictive value of the lumbar extension test for outcome after surgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).

Summary of Background Data. Studies have indicated that aggravation of the symptoms from LSS by extension of the lumbar spine has predictive value for the outcome after decompression. The aim of this study was to investigate this theory in a larger group of patients.

Methods. One hundred forty-six consecutive patients surgically treated for LSS were included in the study. The clinical condition was recorded before surgery and at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery using 3 different scoring systems: Swiss Spinal Stenosis Questionnaire, Neurogenic Claudication Outcome Score, and Oswestry Disability Index. The group of patients with preoperative aggravation of the symptoms by the lumbar extension test, (positive extension test), was compared with the group of patients without aggravation by the test, (negative extension test).

Results. Before surgery, patients with a positive extension test scored significantly worse on all disability scoring systems than patients with a negative test. However, the extension test itself had no prognostic value for the overall outcome after lumbar decompression. Using regression models with the 2-year Oswestry Disability Index as dependent variable, only before surgery self-reported health and age were found to have prognostic significance.

Conclusion. The lumbar extension test has no predictive value for the outcome after surgical treatment of LSS

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