Spine J. 2023 Oct 22:S1529-9430(23)03460-5. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2023.10.003. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Lumbar interbody instrumentation techniques are common and effective surgical options for a variety of lumbar degenerative pathologies. Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) has become a versatile and powerful means of decompression, stabilization, and reconstruction. As an anterior only technique, the integrity of the posterior muscle and ligaments remain intact. Adding posterior instrumentation to ALIF is common and may confer benefits in terms of higher fusion rate but could contribute to adjacent segment degeneration due to additional rigidity. Large clinical studies comparing stand-alone ALIF with and without posterior supplementary fixation (ALIF+PSF) are lacking.
PURPOSE: To compare rates of operative nonunion and adjacent segment disease (ASD) in ALIF with or without posterior instrumentation.
STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study.
PATIENT SAMPLE: Adult patients (≥ 18 years old) who underwent primary ALIF for lumbar degenerative pathology between levels L4 to S1 over a 12-year period. Exclusion criteria included trauma, cancer, infection, supplemental decompression, noncontiguous fusions, prior lumbar fusions, and other interbody devices.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Reoperation for nonunion and ASD compared between ALIF only and ALIF+PSF.
METHODS: Reoperations were modeled as time-to-events where the follow-up time was defined as the difference between the primary ALIF procedure and the date of the outcome of interest. Crude cumulative reoperation probabilities were reported at five-years follow-up. Multivariable Cox proportional hazard regression was used to evaluate risk of operative nonunion and for ASD adjusting for patient characteristics.
RESULTS: The study consisted of 1377 cases; 307 ALIF only and 1070 ALIF+PSF. Mean follow up time was 5.6 years. The 5-year crude nonunion incidence was 2.4% for ALIF only and 0.5% for ALIF+PSF; after adjustment for covariates, a lower operative nonunion risk was observed for ALIF+PSF (HR=0.22, 95% CI=0.06-0.76). Of the patients who are deemed potentially suitable for ALIF alone, one would need to add posterior instrumentation in 53 patients to prevent one case of operative nonunion at a 5-year follow-up (number needed to treat). Five-year operative ASD incidence was 4.3% for ALIF only and 6.2% for ALIF+PSF; with adjustments, no difference was observed between the cohorts (HR=0.96, 95% CI=0.54-1.71).
CONCLUSIONS: While the addition of posterior instrumentation in ALIFs is associated with lower risk of operative nonunion compared to ALIF alone, operative nonunion is rare in both techniques (<5%). Accordingly, surgeons should evaluate the added risks associated with the addition of posterior instrumentation and reserve the supplemental posterior fixation for patients that might be at higher risk for operative nonunion. Rates of operative ASD were not statistically higher with the addition of posterior instrumentation suggesting concern regarding future risk of ASD perhaps should not play a role in considering supplemental posterior instrumentation in ALIF.