Biomechanical Assessment of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion With an Anterior Lumbosacral Fixation Screw-Plate: Comparison to Stand-Alone Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion and Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion With Pedicle Screws in an Unstable Human Cadaver Model

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Abstract

Study Design.

Human lumbosacral cadaveric specimens were tested in an in vitro biomechanical flexibility experiment using physiologic loads in 5 sequential conditions.

Objective.

To determine the biomechanical differences between anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) using cylindrical threaded cages alone or supplemented with an anterior screw-plate or posterior pedicle screws-rods.

Summary of Background Data.

Clinically and biomechanically, stand-alone ALIF performs modestly in immobilizing the unstable spine. Pedicle screws improve fixation stiffness significantly, but supplementary anterior instrumentation has not been studied.

Methods.

There were 7 specimens tested: (1) intact, (2) after discectomy and facetectomy to induce moderate rotational and translational hypermobility, (3) with 2 parallel ALIF cages, (4) with cages plus a triangular anterior screw-plate, and (5) with cages plus pedicle screws-rods. Pure moments without preload induced flexion, extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation; linear shear forces induced anteroposterior translation. Angular and linear motions were measured stereophotogrammetrically, and range of motion (ROM) and stiffness were quantified.

Results.

Compared to the destabilized spine, interbody cages alone reduced ROM by 77% during flexion, 53% during extension, 60% during lateral bending, 69% during axial rotation, and 71% during anteroposterior shear (P < 0.001, analysis of variance/Fisher least significant difference). Addition of an anterior plate or pedicle screws-rods, respectively, further reduced ROM by 8% or 13% during flexion (P = 0.21), 21% or 28% during extension (P = 0.15), 5% or 25% during lateral bending (P = 0.04), 11% or 18% during axial rotation (P = 0.13), and 18% or 18% during anteroposterior shear (P = 0.17). Compared to stand-alone ALIF, both the anterior screw-plate and pedicle screw-rod fixation reduced vertebral ROM to less than 1.2° of rotation and less than 0.1 mm of translation.

Conclusions.

The anterior screw-plate and pedicle screws-rods both substantially reduced ROM and increased stiffness compared to stand-alone interbody cages. There was no significant difference in the amount by which the supplementary fixation devices limited flexion, extension, axial rotation, or anteroposterior shear; pedicle screws-rods better restricted lateral bending.

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