Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) is a widely accepted procedure for degenerative lumbar diseases, and there have been many reports concerning adjacent-segment disease (ASD) after PLIF. In the reports of ASD in which the fusion level was limited to 1 segment, all reports describe ASD of the L3–4 segment after L4–5 PLIF. On the basis of these reports, it is thought that ASD mainly occurs at the cranial segment. However, no report has covered ASD after L3–4 PLIF. Therefore, the authors investigated ASD after L3–4 PLIF.
In conducting a retrospective case series analysis, the authors reviewed a surgical database providing details of all spine operations performed between 2006 and 2017 at a single institution. During that period, PLIF was performed to treat 632 consecutive patients with degenerative lumbar diseases. Of these patients, 71 were treated with L3–4 PLIF alone, and 67 who were monitored for at least 2 years (mean 5.8 years; follow-up rate 94%) after surgery were enrolled in this study. Radiological ASD (R-ASD), symptomatic ASD (S-ASD), and operative ASD (O-ASD) were evaluated. These types of ASD were defined as follows: R-ASD refers to radiological degeneration adjacent to the fusion segment as shown on plain radiographs; S-ASD is a symptomatic condition due to neurological deterioration at the adjacent-segment degeneration; and O-ASD refers to S-ASD requiring revision surgery.
All patients had initial improvement of neurological symptoms after primary PLIF. R-ASD was observed in 32 (48%) of 67 patients. It occurred at the cranial segment in 12 patients and at the caudal segment in 24; R-ASD at both adjacent segments was observed in 4 patients. Thus, the occurrence of R-ASD was more significant in the caudal segment than in the cranial segment. S-ASD was observed in 10 patients (15%), occurring at the cranial segment in 3 patients and at the caudal segment in 7. O-ASD was observed in 6 patients (9%): at the cranial segment in 1 patient and at the caudal segment in 5. Thus, the rate of involvement of the caudal segment was 67% in R-ASD, 70% in S-ASD, and 83% in O-ASD.
The incidences of R-ASD, S-ASD, and O-ASD were 48%, 15%, and 9%, respectively, after L3–4 PLIF for degenerative lumbar diseases. In contrast to ASD after L4–5 PLIF, ASD after L3–4 PLIF was more frequently observed at the caudal segment than at the cranial segment. In follow-up for patients with L3–4 PLIF, surgeons should pay attention to ASD in the caudal segment.