Video-Assisted : A Comparison of Four Techniques and Complications in 135 PatientsVersus: A Comparison of Four Techniques and Complications in 135 Patients Open Anterior Lumbar Spine Fusion Surgery: A Comparison of Four Techniques and Complications in 135 Patients

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Study Design.

A retrospective review involved 135 patients undergoing anterior interbody fusion using four different approaches: transperitoneal video-assisted surgery with insufflation, retroperitoneal endoscopic video-assisted surgery, minilaparotomy retroperitoneal surgery, and traditional oblique muscle-splinting retroperitoneal surgery.


To describe and compare the operative procedure and perioperative complications of four different interbody fusion techniques.

Summary of Background Data.

Although anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery has a long history, several new and innovative approaches have been introduced recently. In contrast to the traditional oblique muscle-splitting retroperitoneal flank incision, the following have been used: a “minilaparotomy” open extraperitoneal approach through a small midline incision, a transperitoneal video-assisted insufflation technique, and a video-assisted gasless retroperitoneal endoscopic technique.


A retrospective review was performed using the hospital records, operating room records, and clinic charts of 135 consecutive patients (50 men and 85 women) who underwent surgery between December 1993 and February 1998. Cases were included if either bone grafts alone or cylindrical cages with bone graft inside were used. Cases with anterior instrumentation using plates or rods were excluded. Diagnoses included degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or pseudarthrosis of a previous lumbosacral fusion. Patients with tumors or infection were excluded. The patients all were adults ranging in age from 17 to 83 years. Among the 135 patients, 12 had undergone previous anterior spine fusion surgery and 64 had undergone prior abdominal surgery.


The onset of new radicular pain or numbness, not experienced by the patient before surgery, occurred in six patients (18%; all with transperitoneal video-assisted surgery using insufflation). Vascular problems occurred in five patients (3.7% overall): two in the transperitoneal video-assisted group (5.9% of the group) and three in the minilaparotomy group (8.7% of the group). Retrograde ejaculation occurred in 4 of the 50 male patients (8% of the group): three in the transperitoneal video-assisted group (25% of the group) and one in the minilaparotomy group (2% of the group). Two patients had ureteral injuries (1.5% overall): one each in the retroperitoneal endoscopic and minilaparotomy groups. Conversion to open procedures was performed in seven patients (11% of the video-assisted procedures). The reasons for conversion included two major vessel lacerations and five peritoneal tears in the retroperitoneal video-assisted group.


A comparative analysis of four techniques for approaching the lower lumbar spine to perform arthrodesis in 135 patients showed an incidence of complications consistent with the literature for video-assisted techniques, but higher than for open techniques. For these and other reasons, the video-assisted approaches have been abandoned by the surgeons of this report.

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