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Michael G. Kaiser, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Zoher Ghogawala, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Alok Sharan, Jeffrey C. Wang, Sanjay S. Dhall and Praveen V. Mummaneni

The relationship between the formation of a solid arthrodesis and electrical and electromagnetic energy is well established; most of the information on the topic, however, pertains to the healing of long bone fractures. The use of both invasive and noninvasive means to supply this energy and supplement spinal fusions has been investigated. Three forms of electrical stimulation are routinely used: direct current stimulation (DCS), pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation (PEMFS), and capacitive coupled electrical stimulation (CCES). Only DCS requires the placement of electrodes within the fusion substrate and is inserted at the time of surgery. Since publication of the original guidelines, few studies have investigated the use of bone growth stimulators. Based on the current review, no conflict with the previous recommendations was generated. The use of DCS is recommended as an option for patients younger than 60 years of age, since a positive effect on fusion has been observed. The same, however, cannot be stated for patients over 60, because DCS did not appear to have an impact on fusion rates in this population. No study was reviewed that investigated the use of CCES or the routine use of PEMFS. A single low-level study demonstrated a positive impact of PEMFS on patients undergoing revision surgery for pseudarthrosis, but this single study is insufficient to recommend for or against the use of PEMFS in this patient population.

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Zoher Ghogawala, Daniel K. Resnick, William C. Watters III, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Andrew T. Dailey, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Alok Sharan, Michael W. Groff, Jeffrey C. Wang, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

Assessment of functional patient-reported outcome following lumbar spinal fusion continues to be essential for comparing the effectiveness of different treatments for patients presenting with degenerative disease of the lumbar spine. When assessing functional outcome in patients being treated with lumbar spinal fusion, a reliable, valid, and responsive outcomes instrument such as the Oswestry Disability Index should be used. The SF-36 and the SF-12 have emerged as dominant measures of general health-related quality of life. Research has established the minimum clinically important difference for major functional outcomes measures, and this should be considered when assessing clinical outcome. The results of recent studies suggest that a patient's pretreatment psychological state is a major independent variable that affects the ability to detect change in functional outcome.

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Zoher Ghogawala, Robert G. Whitmore, William C. Watters III, Alok Sharan, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Andrew T. Dailey, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Jeffrey C. Wang, Daniel K. Resnick, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

A comprehensive economic analysis generally involves the calculation of indirect and direct health costs from a societal perspective as opposed to simply reporting costs from a hospital or payer perspective. Hospital charges for a surgical procedure must be converted to cost data when performing a cost-effectiveness analysis. Once cost data has been calculated, quality-adjusted life year data from a surgical treatment are calculated by using a preference-based health-related quality-of-life instrument such as the EQ-5D. A recent cost-utility analysis from a single study has demonstrated the long-term (over an 8-year time period) benefits of circumferential fusions over stand-alone posterolateral fusions. In addition, economic analysis from a single study has found that lumbar fusion for selected patients with low-back pain can be recommended from an economic perspective. Recent economic analysis, from a single study, finds that femoral ring allograft might be more cost-effective compared with a specific titanium cage when performing an anterior lumbar interbody fusion plus posterolateral fusion.

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Tanvir F. Choudhri, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Sanjay S. Dhall, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Zoher Ghogawala, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Alok Sharan, Jeffrey C. Wang and Michael G. Kaiser

The ability to identify a successful arthrodesis is an essential element in the management of patients undergoing lumbar fusion procedures. The hypothetical gold standard of intraoperative exploration to identify, under direct observation, a solid arthrodesis is an impractical alternative. Therefore, radiographic assessment remains the most viable instrument to evaluate for a successful arthrodesis. Static radiographs, particularly in the presence of instrumentation, are not recommended. In the absence of spinal instrumentation, lack of motion on flexion-extension radiographs is highly suggestive of a successful fusion; however, motion observed at the treated levels does not necessarily predict pseudarthrosis. The degree of motion on dynamic views that would distinguish between a successful arthrodesis and pseudarthrosis has not been clearly defined. Computed tomography with fine-cut axial images and multiplanar views is recommended and appears to be the most sensitive for assessing fusion following instrumented posterolateral and anterior lumbar interbody fusions. For suspected symptomatic pseudarthrosis, a combination of techniques including static and dynamic radiographs as well as CT images is recommended as an option. Lack of facet fusion is considered to be more suggestive of a pseudarthrosis compared with absence of bridging posterolateral bone. Studies exploring additional noninvasive modalities of fusion assessment have demonstrated either poor potential, such as with 99mTc bone scans, or provide insufficient information to formulate a definitive recommendation.

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Sanjay S. Dhall, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Zoher Ghogawala, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Alok Sharan, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Jeffrey C. Wang and Michael G. Kaiser

In an effort to diminish pain or progressive instability, due to either the pathological process or as a result of surgical decompression, one of the primary goals of a fusion procedure is to achieve a solid arthrodesis. Assuming that pain and disability result from lost mechanical integrity of the spine, the objective of a fusion across an unstable segment is to eliminate pathological motion and improve clinical outcome. However, conclusive evidence of this correlation, between successful fusion and clinical outcome, remains elusive, and thus the necessity of documenting successful arthrodesis through radiographic analysis remains debatable. Although a definitive cause and effect relationship has not been demonstrated, there is moderate evidence that demonstrates a positive association between radiographic presence of fusion and improved clinical outcome. Due to this growing body of literature, it is recommended that strategies intended to enhance the potential for radiographic fusion are considered when performing a lumbar arthrodesis for degenerative spine disease.

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Jason C. Eck, Alok Sharan, Daniel K. Resnick, William C. Watters III, Zoher Ghogawala, Andrew T. Dailey, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Michael W. Groff, Jeffrey C. Wang, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

Identifying the etiology of pain for patients suffering from chronic low-back pain remains problematic. Noninvasive imaging modalities, used in isolation, have not consistently provided sufficient evidence to support performance of a lumbar fusion. Provocative testing has been used as an adjunct in this assessment, either alone or in combination with other modalities, to enhance the diagnostic capabilities when evaluating patients with low-back pain. There have been a limited number of studies investigating this topic since the publication of the original guidelines. Based primarily on retrospective studies, discography, as a stand-alone test, is not recommended to formulate treatment strategies for patients with low-back pain. A single randomized cohort study demonstrated an improved potential of discoblock over discography as a predictor of success following lumbar fusion. It is therefore recommended that discoblock be considered as a diagnostic option. There is a possibility, based on a matched cohort study, that an association exists between progression of degenerative disc disease and the performance of a provocative discogram. It is therefore recommended that patients be counseled regarding this potential development prior to undergoing discography.

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Jason C. Eck, Alok Sharan, Zoher Ghogawala, Daniel K. Resnick, William C. Watters III, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Andrew T. Dailey, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Michael W. Groff, Jeffrey C. Wang, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

Establishing an appropriate treatment strategy for patients presenting with low-back pain, in the absence of stenosis or spondylolisthesis, remains a controversial subject. Inherent to this situation is often an inability to adequately identify the source of low-back pain to justify various treatment recommendations, such as lumbar fusion. The current evidence does not identify a single best treatment alternative for these patients. Based on a number of prospective, randomized trials, comparable outcomes, for patients presenting with 1- or 2-level degenerative disc disease, have been demonstrated following either lumbar fusion or a comprehensive rehabilitation program with a cognitive element. Limited access to such comprehensive rehabilitative programs may prove problematic when pursuing this alternative. For patients whose pain is refractory to conservative care, lumbar fusion is recommended. Limitations of these studies preclude the ability to present the most robust recommendation in support of lumbar fusion. A number of lesser-quality studies, primarily case series, also support the use of lumbar fusion in this patient population.

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Jeffrey C. Wang, Andrew T. Dailey, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Zoher Ghogawala, Daniel K. Resnick, William C. Watters III, Michael W. Groff, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Alok Sharan, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

Patients suffering from a lumbar herniated disc will typically present with signs and symptoms consistent with radiculopathy. They may also have low-back pain, however, and the source of this pain is less certain, as it may be from the degenerative process that led to the herniation. The surgical alternative of choice remains a lumbar discectomy, but fusions have been performed for both primary and recurrent disc herniations. In the original guidelines, the inclusion of a fusion for routine discectomies was not recommended. This recommendation continues to be supported by more recent evidence. Based on low-level evidence, the incorporation of a lumbar fusion may be considered an option when a herniation is associated with evidence of spinal instability, chronic low-back pain, and/or severe degenerative changes, or if the patient participates in heavy manual labor. For recurrent disc herniations, there is low-level evidence to support the inclusion of lumbar fusion for patients with evidence of instability or chronic low-back pain.

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Daniel K. Resnick, William C. Watters III, Alok Sharan, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Andrew T. Dailey, Jeffrey C. Wang, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason Eck, Zoher Ghogawala, Michael W. Groff, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

Patients presenting with stenosis associated with a spondylolisthesis will often describe signs and symptoms consistent with neurogenic claudication, radiculopathy, and/or low-back pain. The primary objective of surgery, when deemed appropriate, is to decompress the neural elements. As a result of the decompression, the inherent instability associated with the spondylolisthesis may progress and lead to further misalignment that results in pain or recurrence of neurological complaints. Under these circumstances, lumbar fusion is considered appropriate to stabilize the spine and prevent delayed deterioration. Since publication of the original guidelines there have been a significant number of studies published that continue to support the utility of lumbar fusion for patients presenting with stenosis and spondylolisthesis. Several recently published trials, including the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial, are among the largest prospective randomized investigations of this issue. Despite limitations of study design or execution, these trials have consistently demonstrated superior outcomes when patients undergo surgery, with the majority undergoing some type of lumbar fusion procedure. There is insufficient evidence, however, to recommend a standard approach to achieve a solid arthrodesis. When formulating the most appropriate surgical strategy, it is recommended that an individualized approach be adopted, one that takes into consideration the patient's unique anatomical constraints and desires, as well as surgeon's experience.