Comparison of Posterior and Transforaminal Approaches to Lumbar Interbody Fusion


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Abstract

Study Design. A study of the transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion and the posterior lumbar interbody fusion techniques was performed.Objectives.To describe the transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion technique, and to compare operative data, including blood loss and operative time, with data from posterior lumbar interbody fusion technique.Summary of Background Data. The evolution of posterior lumbar fusion combined with anterior interbody fusion has resulted in increased fusion rates as well as improved reductions and stability. The transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion technique pioneered by Harms and Jeszensky offers potential advantages and provides a surgical alternative to more traditional methods.Methods.In 13 consecutive months, two spinal surgeons performed 40 transforaminal lumbar interbody fusions and 34 posterior lumbar interbody fusion procedures. Data regarding blood loss, operative times, and length of hospital stay were recorded. These data were analyzed using analysis of variance to show any significant differences between the two techniques. To determine whether differences in measured variables were dependent on patient gender or number of levels fused, εχ2 analysis was used.Results. No significant differences were found between transforaminal and posterior lumbar interbody fusions in terms of blood loss, operative time, or duration of hospital stay when a single-level fusion was performed. Significantly less blood loss occurred when a two-level fusion was performed using the transforaminal approach instead of the posterior approach (P < 0.01). Differences in measured variables for the two procedures were independent of patient age, gender, and the number of levels fused. There were no complications with the transforaminal approach, but the posterior approach resulted in multiple complications.Conclusions. In this comparison of patients receiving transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion versus posterior lumbar interbody fusion, no complications occurred with the transforaminal approach, whereas multiple complications were associated with the posterior approach. Similar operative times, blood loss, and duration of hospital stay were obtained in single-level fusions, but significantly less blood loss occurred with the transforaminal lumbar interbody approach in two-level fusions. The transforaminal procedure preserves the interspinous ligaments of the lumbar spine and preserves the contralateral laminar surface as an additional surface for bone graft. It may be performed at all lumbar levels because it avoids significant retraction of the dura and conus medullaris.

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