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A matched cohort analysis of long adult deformity fusions according to distal fusion level (L5 vs. S1).To compare the results of long adult deformity fusions to either L5 or the sacrum in the presence of a “healthy” 5–1 disc using a matched cohort analysis.For adult spinal deformity, the decision often arises whether to terminate a long fusion at L5 or the sacrum. The decision is especially challenging in the presence of a “healthy” (Grade 0 to 1 degeneration) 5–1 disc.A total of 95 adult deformity patients that underwent fusion from the thoracic spine to either L5 or the sacrum were sorted according to five preoperative criteria: 5–1 disc status, patient age, smoking status, number of levels fused, and sagittal balance. Two cohorts (L5, 27 patients; sacrum, 12 patients) were precisely matched according to the five criteria. Patients were evaluated at 2-year minimum follow-up according to radiographic data, complications, and SRS-24 outcomes.Correction of sagittal imbalance was superior for sacrum patients (C7 plumb line: L5, 0.9 cm; sacrum, 3.2 cm; P = 0.03). At latest follow-up (L5, 5.2 years; sacrum, 3.7 years), 67% of L5 patients had radiographic evidence of advanced 5–1 disc degeneration and the L5 cohort tended to have inferior sagittal balance (C7 plumb line: L5, +4.0 cm; sacrum, +1.2 cm; P = 0.06). The sacrum cohort, however, required more surgical procedures (L5, 1.7; sacrum, 2.8; P = 0.03) and experienced a greater frequency of major complications (L5, 22%; sacrum, 75%; P = 0.02), including nonunion (L5, 4%; sacrum, 42%; P = 0.006) and medical morbidity (L5, 0%; sacrum, 33%; P = 0.001). SRS-24 scores reflected a similar patient assessment of outcome and function for the two cohorts (L5, 89; sacrum, 87).At 3 to 5 years’ mean follow-up, long adult fusions to the sacrum required more procedures and had a higher frequency of complications than similar fusions to L5. For fusions to L5, subsequent subjacent disc degeneration is common and may be associated with a forward shift in sagittal balance. The ultimate influence of these factors on long-term outcomes remains to be seen.