Outpatient outcomes of patients with femoral nerve neurapraxia after prone lateral lumbar interbody fusion at L4–5

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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona
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OBJECTIVE

Single-position prone lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) improves the efficiency of staged minimally invasive lumbar spine surgery. However, laterally approaching the lumbar spine, especially L4–5 with the patient in the prone position, could increase the risk of complications and presents unique challenges, including difficult ergonomics, psoas migration, and management of the nearby lumbar plexus. The authors sought to identify postoperative femoral neurapraxia after single-position prone LLIF at L4–5 to better understand how symptoms evolve over time.

METHODS

This retrospective analysis examined a prospectively maintained database of LLIF patients who were treated by two surgeons (J.S.U. and J.D.T.). Patients who underwent single-position prone LLIF at L4–5 and percutaneous pedicle screw fixation for lumbar stenosis or spondylolisthesis were included if they had at least 6 weeks of follow-up. Outpatient postoperative neurological symptoms were analyzed at 6-week, 3-month, and 6-month follow-up evaluations.

RESULTS

Twenty-nine patients (16 women [55%]; overall mean ± SD age 62 ± 11 years) met the inclusion criteria. Five patients (17%) experienced complications, including 1 (3%) who had a femoral nerve injury with resultant motor weakness. The mean ± SD transpsoas retractor time was 14.6 ± 6.1 minutes, the directional anterior electromyography (EMG) threshold before retractor placement was 20.1 ± 10.2 mA, and the directional posterior EMG threshold was 10.4 ± 9.1 mA. All patients had 6-week clinical follow-up evaluations. Ten patients (34%) reported thigh pain or weakness at their 6-week follow-up appointment, compared with 3/27 (11%) at 3 months and 1/20 (5%) at 6 months. No association was found between directional EMG threshold and neurapraxia, but longer transpsoas retractor time at L4–5 was significantly associated with femoral neurapraxia at 6-week follow-up (p = 0.02). The only case of femoral nerve injury with motor weakness developed in a patient with a retractor time that was nearly twice as long as the mean time (27.0 vs 14.6 minutes); however, this patient fully recovered by the 3-month follow-up evaluation.

CONCLUSIONS

To our knowledge, this is the largest study with the longest follow-up duration to date after single-position prone LLIF at L4–5 with percutaneous pedicle screw fixation. Although 34% of patients reported ipsilateral sensory symptoms in the thigh at the 6-week follow-up evaluation, only 1 patient sustained a nerve injury; this resulted in temporary weakness that resolved by the 3-month follow-up evaluation. Thus, longer transpsoas retractor time at L4–5 during prone LLIF is associated with increased ipsilateral thigh symptoms at 6-week follow-up that may resolve over time.

ABBREVIATIONS

EMG = electromyography; LLIF = lateral lumbar interbody fusion.

Illustration from Kong et al. (pp 4–12). Copyright Qing-Jie Kong. Used with permission.

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