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Peter G. Campbell, David A. Cavanaugh, Pierce Nunley, Philip A. Utter, Eubulus Kerr, Rishi Wadhwa, and Marcus Stone

OBJECTIVE

The authors have provided a review of radiographic subsidence after lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) as a comparative analysis between titanium and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) cages. Many authors describe a reluctance to use titanium cages in spinal fusion secondary to subsidence concerns due to the increased modulus of elasticity of metal cages. The authors intend for this report to provide observational data regarding the juxtaposition of these two materials in the LLIF domain.

METHODS

A retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database identified 113 consecutive patients undergoing lateral fusion for degenerative indications from January to December 2017. The surgeons performing the cage implantations were two orthopedic spine surgeons and two neurosurgeons. Plain standing radiographs were obtained at 1–2 weeks, 8–12 weeks, and 12 months postoperatively. Using a validated grading system, interbody subsidence into the endplates was graded at these time points on a scale of 0 to III. The primary outcome measure was subsidence between the two groups. Secondary outcomes were analyzed as well.

RESULTS

Of the 113 patients in the sample, groups receiving PEEK and titanium implants were closely matched at 57 and 56 patients, respectively. Cumulatively, 156 cages were inserted and recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) was used in 38.1%. The average patient age was 60.4 years and average follow-up was 75.1 weeks. Subsidence in the titanium group in this study was less common than in the PEEK cage group. At early follow-up, groups had similar subsidence outcomes. Statistical significance was reached at the 8- to 12-week and 52-week follow-ups, demonstrating more subsidence in the PEEK cage group than the titanium cage group. rhBMP-2 usage was also highly correlated with higher subsidence rates at all 3 follow-up time points. Age was correlated with higher subsidence rates in univariate and multivariate analysis.

CONCLUSIONS

Titanium cages were associated with lower subsidence rates than PEEK cages in this investigation. Usage of rhBMP-2 was also robustly associated with higher endplate subsidence. Each additional year of age correlated with an increased subsidence risk. Subsidence in LLIF is likely a response to a myriad of factors that include but are certainly not limited to cage material. Hence, the avoidance of titanium interbody implants secondary solely to concerns over a modulus of elasticity likely overlooks other variables of equal or greater importance.

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Peter G. Campbell, Pierce D. Nunley, David Cavanaugh, Eubulus Kerr, Philip Andrew Utter, Kelly Frank, and Marcus Stone

OBJECTIVE

Recently, authors have called into question the utility and complication index of the lateral lumbar interbody fusion procedure at the L4–5 level. Furthermore, the need for direct decompression has also been debated. Here, the authors report the clinical and radiographic outcomes of transpsoas lumbar interbody fusion, relying only on indirect decompression to treat patients with neurogenic claudication secondary to Grade 1 and 2 spondylolisthesis at the L4–5 level.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective evaluation of 18 consecutive patients with Grade 1 or 2 spondylolisthesis from a prospectively maintained database. All patients underwent a transpsoas approach, followed by posterior percutaneous instrumentation without decompression. The Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and SF-12 were administered during the clinical evaluations. Radiographic evaluation was also performed. The mean follow-up was 6.2 months.

RESULTS

Fifteen patients with Grade 1 and 3 patients with Grade 2 spondylolisthesis were identified and underwent fusion at a total of 20 levels. The mean operative time was 165 minutes for the combined anterior and posterior phases of the operation. The estimated blood loss was 113 ml. The most common cage width in the anteroposterior dimension was 22 mm (78%). Anterior thigh dysesthesia was identified on detailed sensory evaluation in 6 of 18 patients (33%); all patients experienced resolution within 6 months postoperatively. No patient had lasting sensory loss or motor deficit. The average ODI score improved 26 points by the 6-month follow-up. At the 6-month follow-up, the SF-12 mean Physical and Mental Component Summary scores improved by 11.9% and 9.6%, respectively. No patient required additional decompression postoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS

This study offers clinical results to establish lateral lumbar interbody fusion as an effective technique for the treatment of Grade 1 or 2 degenerative spondylolisthesis at L4–5. The use of this surgical approach provides a minimally invasive solution that offers excellent arthrodesis rates as well as favorable clinical and radiological outcomes, with low rates of postoperative complications. However, adhering to the techniques of transpsoas lateral surgery, such as minimal table break, an initial look-and-see approach to the psoas, clear identification of the plexus, minimal cranial caudal expansion of the retractor, mobilization of any traversing sensory nerves, and total psoas dilation times less than 20 minutes, ensures the lowest possible complication profile for both visceral and neural injuries even in the narrow safe zones when accessing the L4–5 disc space in patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis.