The paracoccygeal approach allows for instrumentation of L5/S1 and L4/5 by using a transsacral rod (AxiaLIF; TransS1, Inc.). The authors analyzed clinical and radiographic outcomes of 1- or 2-level AxiaLIF procedures with focus on durability of the construct.
This was a retrospective study of 38 consecutive patients who underwent either 1-level (32 patients) or 2-level (6 patients) AxiaLIF procedures at the authors' institution. The Oswestry Disability Index (minimum clinically important difference [MCID] ≥ 12) and visual analog scale ([VAS]; MCID ≥ 3) scores were collected. Disc height and Cobb angles were measured on pre- and postoperative radiographs. Bony fusion was determined on CT scans or flexion/extension radiographs.
Implantation of a transsacral rod allowed for intraoperative distraction of the L5/S1 intervertebral space and resulted in increased segmental lordosis postoperatively. At a mean follow-up time of 26.2 ± 2.4 months, however, graft subsidence (1.9 mm) abolished partial correction of segmental lordosis. Moreover, subsidence of the construct reduced L5/S1 lordosis in patients with 1-level AxiaLIF by 3.2° and L4–S1 lordosis in patients with 2-level procedures by 10.1° compared with preoperative values (p < 0.01). Loss of segmental lordosis predicted failure to improve VAS scores for back pain in the patient cohort (p < 0.05). Overall, surgical intervention led to modest symptomatic improvement; only 26.3% of patients achieved an MCID of the Oswestry Disability Index and 50% of patients an MCID of the VAS score for back pain. At last follow-up, 71.9% of L5/S1 levels demonstrated bony fusion (1-level AxiaLIF 80.8%, 2-level AxiaLIF 33.3%; p < 0.05), whereas none of the L4/5 levels in 2-level AxiaLIF fused. Five constructs developed pseudarthrosis and required surgical revision.
The AxiaLIF procedure constitutes a minimally invasive technique for L5/S1 instrumentation, with low perioperative morbidity. However, the axial rod provides inadequate long-term anterior column support, which leads to subsidence and loss of segmental lordosis. Modification of the transsacral technique to allow for placement of a solid interposition graft may counteract subsidence of the construct.