Although transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is an increasingly popular surgical technique, there are a limited number of studies in which investigators have stratified outcome data with respect to surgical indications or documented radiographically proven and clinical results with respect to disc space height (DSH). The authors conducted a study to evaluate the long-term outcomes after TLIF with respect to surgical indication and radiographic/neuroimaging results.
Thirty-three consecutive TLIF-treated patients underwent follow-up investigation for a mean of 37 months. Isthmic spondylolysis was present in eight patients, recurrent disc herniation in 14, and degenerative disc disease (DDD) in 11. The operative technique involved the placement of interbody structural allograft, pedicle screw instrumentation, and morcellized autograft in the anterior interbody space and the contralateral intertransverse gutter. Surgery was performed at L4–5 in 16 patients, L5–S1 in 14, L3–4 in two, and both L4–5 and L5–S1 in one patient.
Preoperative symptoms were back pain (in 91% of cases), leg pain (in 94%), sensory loss (in 67%), and motor deficits (in 30%). Postoperatively, back pain was improved in 67% of the patients, unchanged in 27%, and worsened in 7%. Leg pain improved in 80% of patients, was unchanged in 10%, and worsened in 10%. Outcome, as measured using the Prolo Functional and Economic Scales, improved from a score of 4.9 to 7. In patients with spondylolysis and recurrent disc herniation outcomes were better than in those with DDD only. There was no correlation of outcome with symptom duration, patient age, or level of surgery. In an independent review of pre- and late postoperative radiographs no significant differences in lordosis angles, Cobb angles, or DSHs were found. Fusion occurred in all cases.
The TLIF procedure was associated with good clinical outcomes and a high fusion rate but no change in the DSH. Patients who present with spondylolysis and recurrent herniations experience better outcome than those with degenerative disease alone.