Lumbar spondylolisthesis is a degenerative condition that can be surgically treated with either open or minimally invasive decompression and instrumented fusion. Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) approaches may shorten recovery, reduce blood loss, and minimize soft-tissue damage with resultant reduced postoperative pain and disability.
The authors queried the national, multicenter Quality Outcomes Database (QOD) registry for patients undergoing posterior lumbar fusion between July 2014 and December 2015 for Grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis. The authors recorded baseline and 12-month patient-reported outcomes (PROs), including Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), EQ-5D, numeric rating scale (NRS)–back pain (NRS-BP), NRS–leg pain (NRS-LP), and satisfaction (North American Spine Society satisfaction questionnaire). Multivariable regression models were fitted for hospital length of stay (LOS), 12-month PROs, and 90-day return to work, after adjusting for an array of preoperative and surgical variables.
A total of 345 patients (open surgery, n = 254; MIS, n = 91) from 11 participating sites were identified in the QOD. The follow-up rate at 12 months was 84% (83.5% [open surgery]; 85% [MIS]). Overall, baseline patient demographics, comorbidities, and clinical characteristics were similarly distributed between the cohorts. Two hundred fifty seven patients underwent 1-level fusion (open surgery, n = 181; MIS, n = 76), and 88 patients underwent 2-level fusion (open surgery, n = 73; MIS, n = 15). Patients in both groups reported significant improvement in all primary outcomes (all p < 0.001). MIS was associated with a significantly lower mean intraoperative estimated blood loss and slightly longer operative times in both 1- and 2-level fusion subgroups. Although the LOS was shorter for MIS 1-level cases, this was not significantly different. No difference was detected with regard to the 12-month PROs between the 1-level MIS versus the 1-level open surgical groups. However, change in functional outcome scores for patients undergoing 2-level fusion was notably larger in the MIS cohort for ODI (−27 vs −16, p = 0.1), EQ-5D (0.27 vs 0.15, p = 0.08), and NRS-BP (−3.5 vs −2.7, p = 0.41); statistical significance was shown only for changes in NRS-LP scores (−4.9 vs −2.8, p = 0.02). On risk-adjusted analysis for 1-level fusion, open versus minimally invasive approach was not significant for 12-month PROs, LOS, and 90-day return to work.
Significant improvement was found in terms of all functional outcomes in patients undergoing open or MIS fusion for lumbar spondylolisthesis. No difference was detected between the 2 techniques for 1-level fusion in terms of patient-reported outcomes, LOS, and 90-day return to work. However, patients undergoing 2-level MIS fusion reported significantly better improvement in NRS-LP at 12 months than patients undergoing 2-level open surgery. Longer follow-up is needed to provide further insight into the comparative effectiveness of the 2 procedures.