Cortical bone trajectory (CBT) screw insertion through a caudomedial starting point provides advantages in limiting dissection of the superior facet joints and reducing muscle dissection and the risk of superior-segment facet violation by the screw. These advantages of the cephalad CBT screw can result in lower rates of early cephalad adjacent segment degeneration (ASD) after posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) with CBT screw fixation (CBT-PLIF) than those after PLIF using traditional trajectory screw fixation (TT-PLIF). Here, the authors investigated early cephalad ASD after CBT-PLIF and compared these results with those after TT-PLIF.
The medical records of all patients who had undergone single-level CBT-PLIF or single-level TT-PLIF for degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis (DLS) and with at least 3 years of postsurgical follow-up were retrospectively reviewed. At 3 years postoperatively, early cephalad radiological ASD changes (R-ASD) such as narrowing of disc height (> 3 mm), anterior or posterior slippage (> 3 mm), and posterior opening (> 5°) were examined using lateral radiographs of the lumbar spine. Early cephalad symptomatic adjacent segment disease (S-ASD) was diagnosed when clinical symptoms such as leg pain deteriorated during postoperative follow-up and the responsible lesion suprajacent to the fused segment was confirmed on MRI.
One hundred two patients underwent single-level CBT-PLIF for DLS and were followed up for at least 3 years (CBT group). As a control group, age- and sex-matched patients (77) underwent single-level TT-PLIF for DLS and were followed up for at least 3 years (TT group). The total incidence of early cephalad R-ASD was 12.7% in the CBT group and 41.6% in the TT group (p < 0.0001). The incidence of narrowing of disc height, anterior slippage, and posterior slippage was significantly lower in the CBT group (5.9%, 2.0%, and 4.9%) than in the TT group (16.9%, 13.0%, and 14.3%; p < 0.05). Early cephalad S-ASD developed in 1 patient (1.0%) in the CBT group and 3 patients (3.9%) in the TT group; although the incidence was lower in the CBT group than in the TT group, no significant difference was found between the two groups.
CBT-PLIF, as compared with TT-PLIF, significantly reduced the incidence of early cephalad R-ASD. One of the main reasons may be that cephalad CBT screws reduced the risk of proximal facet violation by the screw, which reportedly can increase biomechanical stress and lead to destabilization at the suprajacent segment to the fused segment.