Complications of axial lumbar interbody fusion

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  • 1 The Spine Center, Department of Orthopaedics, University of Colorado, Denver; and
  • 2 Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center, Golden, Colorado
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Object

Axial lumbar interbody fusion (AxiaLIF) is a novel minimally invasive approach for fusion of L4–5 and L5–S1. This technique uses the presacral space for percutaneous access to the anterior sacrum. The AxiaLIF procedure has the potential to decrease patient recovery time, length of hospital stay, and overall occurrence of surgical complications. It can be used alone or in combination with minimally invasive or traditional open fusion procedures. The purpose of this study was to evaluate complications of the AxiaLIF procedure at the authors' institutions.

Methods

Patients who underwent AxiaLIF surgery between October 2005 and June 2009 at the authors' institutions were identified. The authors retrospectively reviewed these patients' charts, including operative reports and postoperative medical records, to determine what complications were encountered.

Results

A total of 68 patients underwent AxiaLIF surgery, with an average follow-up time of 34 months. Sixteen patients (23.5%) experienced a total of 18 complications (26.5%); this group included 8 men and 8 women (mean age 52.1 years). These complications included pseudarthrosis (8.8%), superficial infection (5.9%), sacral fracture (2.9%), pelvic hematoma (2.9%), failure of wound closure (1.5%), transient nerve root irritation (1.5%), and rectal perforation (2.9%).

Conclusions

The complication rate associated with AxiaLIF in the present study was relatively low (26.5%). The most common complications were superficial infection and pseudarthrosis. There were 2 cases of rectal perforation associated with AxiaLIF; one case was found intraoperatively and the other presented 4 days postoperatively. Both patients underwent emergency repair by a general surgeon and had no long-term sequelae as a result of the rectal injuries. It is important for surgeons to be aware of the potential for these complications. Many of these complications can probably be avoided with proper patient selection and operative planning. Preoperative MR imaging, a detailed patient physical examination and history, full bowel preparation, and the use of live fluoroscopy can all help to prevent complications with AxiaLIF surgery.

Abbreviations used in this paper: ALIF = anterior lumbar interbody fusion; AxiaLIF = axial lumbar interbody fusion; CRP = C-reactive protein; ESR = erythrocyte sedimentation rate; PLIF = posterior lumbar interbody fusion; RBC = red blood cell; TLIF = transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion; WBC = white blood cell.

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Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to: Emily Lindley, Ph.D., The Spine Center, Department of Orthopaedics, University of Colorado Denver, 12631 East 17th Avenue, Aurora, Colorado 80045. email: Emily.lindley@ucdenver.edu.

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online May 20, 2011; DOI: 10.3171/2011.3.SPINE10373.

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