Interbody fusion cages are widely used to achieve initial fixation and secure spinal fusion; however, there are certain technique-related complications. Although anterior cage dislodgement can cause major vascular injury, the incidence is extremely rare. Here, the authors performed a review of anterior cage dislodgement following posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) surgery.
The authors retrospectively reviewed the cases of 4625 patients who had undergone PLIF at 6 institutions between December 2007 and March 2015. They investigated the incidence and causes of surgery-related anterior cage dislodgement, salvage mechanisms, and postoperative courses.
Anterior cage dislodgement occurred in 12 cases (0.26%), all of which were caused by technical errors. In 9 cases, excessive cage impaction resulted in dislodgement. In 2 cases, when the cage on the ipsilateral side was inserted, it interacted and pushed out the other cage on the opposite side. In 1 case, the cage was positioned in an extreme lateral and anterior part of the intervertebral disc space, and it postoperatively dislodged. In 3 cases, the cage was removed in the same operative field. In the remaining 9 cases, CT angiography was performed postoperatively to assess the relationship between the dislodged cage and large vessels. Dislodged cages were conservatively observed in 2 cases. In 7 cases, the cage was removed because it was touching or compressing large vessels, and an additional anterior approach was selected. In 2 patients, there was significant bleeding from an injured inferior vena cava. There were no further complications or sequelae associated with the dislodged cages during the follow-up period.
Although rare, iatrogenic anterior cage dislodgement following a PLIF can occur. The authors found that technical errors made by experienced spine surgeons were the main causes of this complication. To prevent dislodgement, the surgeon should be cautious when inserting the cage, avoiding excessive cage impaction and ensuring cage control. Once dislodgement occurs, the surgeons must immediately address this difficult complication. First, the possibility of a large vessel injury should be considered. If the patient’s vital signs are stable, the surgeon should continue with the surgery without cage removal and perform CT angiography postoperatively to assess the cage location. Blind maneuvers should be avoided when the surgical site cannot be clearly viewed. When the cage compresses or touches the aortic artery or vena cava, it is better to remove the cage to avoid late-onset injury to major vessels. When the cage does not compress or touch vessels, its removal is controversial. The risk factors associated with performing another surgery should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.