Minimally invasive transforaminal interbody fusion techniques vary among surgeons. One decision point is whether to perform a unilateral facetectomy (UF), a unilateral facetectomy plus partial contralateral facetectomy (UF/PF), or a complete bilateral facetectomy (CBF). The authors therefore compared the biomechanical benefits of all 3 types of facetectomies to determine which approach produces improved biomechanical outcomes.
Seven human cadaveric specimens (L3–S1) were potted and prepped for UF, with full facet removal, hemilaminectomy, discectomy, and pedicle screw placement. After distraction, a fixed interbody spacer was placed, and compression was performed. A final fixation configuration was performed by locking the rods across the screws posteriorly with bilateral compression. Final lordosis angle and change and foraminal height were measured, and standard nondestructive flexibility tests were performed to assess intervertebral range of motion (ROM) and compressive stiffness. The same procedure was followed for UF/PF and CBF in all 7 specimens.
All 3 conditions demonstrated similar ROM and compressive stiffness. No statistically significant differences occurred with distraction, but CBF demonstrated significantly greater change than UF in mean foraminal height after bilateral posterior compression (1.90 ± 0.62 vs 1.00 ± 0.45 mm, respectively, p = 0.04). With compression, the CBF demonstrated significantly greater mean ROM than the UF (2.82° ± 0.83° vs 2.170° ± 1.10°, p = 0.007). The final lordosis angle was greatest with CBF (3.74° ± 0.70°) and lowest with UF (2.68° ± 1.28°). This finding was statistically significant across all 3 conditions (p ≤ 0.04).
Although UF/PF and CBF may require slightly more time and effort and incur more risk than UF, the potential improvement in sagittal balance may be worthwhile for select patients.