The importance of global sagittal alignment is well known. Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) generally tend to bend forward to relieve their neurological symptoms, i.e., they have a positive sagittal vertical axis (SVA). We hypothesized that the positive SVA associated with LSS is symptom related and should improve after surgery. However, little is known about the changes in sagittal alignment in LSS patients after decompression surgery. In this study the authors aimed to evaluate midterm radiographical changes in sagittal spinopelvic alignment after decompression surgery for LSS and to determine the factors influencing the improvement in sagittal spinopelvic alignment.
The authors retrospectively reviewed 89 patients who underwent lumbar decompression without fusion between January 2014 and September 2015 with a minimum follow-up of 2 years. Standing whole-spine radiographs at the preoperative stage and at the final follow-up were examined. We analyzed SVA, lumbar lordosis (LL), pelvic tilt (PT), pelvic incidence (PI), thoracolumbar kyphosis (TLK), and thoracic kyphosis (TK).
LL and TK were significantly increased postoperatively. SVA and PI minus LL (PI-LL) were significantly decreased. There were no significant differences between the preoperative and postoperative PT, PI, SS, or TLK. Twenty-nine patients had preoperative sagittal malalignment with SVA > 50 mm. Thirteen of the 29 patients improved to SVA < 50 mm after decompression surgery. Lower ASA grade, preoperative higher LL, and lower PI-LL were related to patient improvement. A receiver operating characteristic curve for the preoperative PI-LL had an area under the curve value of 0.821, indicating moderate accuracy (p = 0.003). A cutoff value for preoperative PI-LL of 19.2° showed a sensitivity of 93.5% and a specificity of 71.4%.
Lumbar decompression can lead to a reactive improvement in the lumbar and global sagittal alignment. However, some of the sagittal malalignment in LSS was irreversible. Preoperative PI-LL was a useful predictor to distinguish reversible from irreversible sagittal malalignment.