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Ifije E. Ohiorhenuan, Corey T. Walker, James J. Zhou, Jakub Godzik, Soumya Sagar, S. Harrison Farber, and Juan S. Uribe

OBJECTIVE

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) facilitates the restoration of disc height and the indirect decompression of neural elements. However, these benefits are lost when the graft subsides into the adjacent endplates. The factors leading to subsidence after LLIF are poorly understood. This article presents a case series of patients who underwent LLIF and reports factors correlating with subsidence.

METHODS

A retrospective review of a consecutive, prospectively collected, single-institution database of patients who underwent LLIF over a 29-month period was performed. The degree of subsidence was measured on the basis of postoperative imaging. The timing of postoperative subsidence was determined, and intraoperative fluoroscopic images were reviewed to determine whether subsidence occurred as a result of endplate violation. The association of subsidence with age, sex, cage size and type, bone density, and posterior instrumentation was investigated.

RESULTS

One hundred thirty-one patients underwent LLIF at a total of 204 levels. Subsidence was observed at 23 (11.3%) operated levels. True subsidence, attributable to postoperative cage settling, occurred for 12 (5.9%) of the levels; for the remaining 11 (5.4%) levels, subsidence was associated with intraoperative endplate violation noted on fluoroscopy during cage placement. All subsidence occurred within 12 weeks of surgery. Univariate analysis showed that the prevalence of true subsidence was significantly lower among patients with titanium implants (0 of 55; 0%) than among patients with polyetheretherketone cages (12 of 149; 8.1%) (p = 0.04). In addition, the mean ratio of graft area to inferior endplate area was significantly lower among the subsidence levels (0.34) than among the nonsubsidence levels (0.42) (p < 0.01). Finally, subsidence among levels with posterior fixation (4.4% [6/135]) was not significantly different than among those without posterior fixation (8.7% [6/69]) (p = 0.23). Multivariate analysis results showed that the ratio of cage to inferior endplate area was the only significant predictor of subsidence in this study (p < 0.01); increasing ratios were associated with a decreased likelihood of subsidence.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, the prevalence of subsidence after LLIF was low in this clinical series. Titanium cages were associated with a lower prevalence of observed subsidence on univariate analysis; however, multivariate analysis demonstrated that this effect may be attributable to the increased surface area of these cages relative to the inferior endplate area.

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Jakub Godzik, Ifije E. Ohiorhenuan, David S. Xu, Bernardo de Andrada Pereira, Corey T. Walker, Alexander C. Whiting, Jay D. Turner, and Juan S. Uribe

OBJECTIVE

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) is a useful minimally invasive technique for achieving anterior interbody fusion and preserving or restoring lumbar lordosis. However, achieving circumferential fusion via posterior instrumentation after an LLIF can be challenging, requiring either repositioning the patient or placing pedicle screws in the lateral position. Here, the authors explore an alternative single-position approach: LLIF in the prone lateral (PL) position.

METHODS

A cadaveric feasibility study was performed using 2 human cadaveric specimens. A retrospective 2-center early clinical series was performed for patients who had undergone a minimally invasive lateral procedure in the prone position between August 2019 and March 2020. Case duration, retractor time, electrophysiological thresholds, implant size, screw accuracy, and complications were recorded. Early postoperative radiographic outcomes were reported.

RESULTS

A PL LLIF was successfully performed in 2 cadavers without causing injury to a vessel or the bowel. No intraoperative subsidence was observed. In the clinical series, 12 patients underwent attempted PL surgery, although 1 case was converted to standard lateral positioning. Thus, 11 patients successfully underwent PL LLIF (89%) across 14 levels: L2–3 (2 of 14 [14%]), L3–4 (6 of 14 [43%]), and L4–5 (6 of 14 [43%]). For the 11 PL patients, the mean (± SD) age was 61 ± 16 years, mean BMI was 25.8 ± 4.8, and mean retractor time per level was 15 ± 6 minutes with the longest retractor time at L2–3 and the shortest at L4–5. No intraoperative subsidence was noted on routine postoperative imaging.

CONCLUSIONS

Performing single-position lateral transpsoas interbody fusion with the patient prone is anatomically feasible, and in an early clinical experience, it appeared safe and reproducible. Prone positioning for a lateral approach presents an exciting opportunity for streamlining surgical access to the lumbar spine and facilitating more efficient surgical solutions with potential clinical and economic advantages.