Failed solid bony fusion, or pseudarthrosis, is a well-known complication of lumbar arthrodesis. Recent advances in radiographic technology, biologics, instrumentation, surgical technique, and understanding of the local biology have all aided in the prevention and treatment of pseudarthrosis. Here, the current literature on the diagnosis and management of lumbar pseudarthroses is reviewed.
A systematic literature review was conducted using the MEDLINE and Embase databases in order to search for the current radiographie diagnosis and surgical treatment methods published in the literature (1985 to present). Inclusion criteria included: 1) published in English; 2) level of evidence I–III; 3) diagnosis of degenerative lumbar spine conditions and/or history of lumbar spine fusion surgery; and 4) comparative studies of 2 different surgical techniques or comparative studies of imaging modality versus surgical exploration.
Seven studies met the inclusion criteria for current radiographie imaging used to diagnose lumbar pseudarthrosis. Plain radiographs and thin-cut CT scans were the most common method for radiographie diagnosis. PET has been shown to be a valid imaging modality for monitoring in vivo active bone formation. Eight studies compared the surgical techniques for managing and preventing failed lumbar fusion. The success rates for the treatment of pseudarthrosis are enhanced with the use of rigid instrumentation.
Spinal fusion rates have improved secondary to advances in biologies, instrumentation, surgical techniques, and understanding of local biology. Treatment of lumbar pseudarthrosis includes a variety of surgical options such as replacing loose instrumentation, use of more potent biologies, and interbody fusion techniques. Prevention and recognition are important tenets in the algorithm for the management of spinal pseudarthrosis.