Superior Segment Facet Joint Violation During Instrumented Lumbar Fusion is Associated With Higher Reoperation Rates and Diminished Improvement in Quality of Life

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Study Design:

A retrospective cohort study at a single tertiary care center.


To determine the impact of superior segment facet joint violation (FJV) during lumbar fusion on reoperation rates and quality of life (QOL).

Summary of Background Data:

Although lumbar fusion is an efficacious and durable treatment for numerous spinal pathologies, adjacent segment degeneration remains a serious complication. FJV has been suggested to alter load-bearing capability and potentially contribute to adjacent segment degeneration.

Materials and Methods:

Patients who underwent instrumented lumbar fusion surgery between 2009 and 2013 with postoperative computed tomography imaging were included. Patients were placed in the FJV group if either of the superior segment facet joints were compromised by the pedicle screw or rod. Patients with preserved facet joints were placed in the control group. Demographic, perioperative, QOL, and reoperation data were collected. QOL scores including the Pain Disability Questionnaire, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and EuroQOL 5 Dimensions (EQ-5D) were acquired.


Of 240 patients included, 112 patients were found to have FJV and the remaining 128 patients were placed in the control group. One year following lumbar fusion, QOL outcomes and reoperation rates were similar between the FJV and control groups. At 2-year follow-up, patients in the FJV group were less likely to make a significant improvement in EQ-5D (P=0.041). Also, the reoperation rate in the FJV group was significantly higher than in the control group at 2 years (15.2% vs. 6.3%, respectively; P=0.024) and 3 years (19.6% vs. 9.4%, P=0.023). Multivariable logistic regression showed FJV to be an independent predictor of both (1) failing to make a significant improvement in EQ-5D (P=0.046) and (2) undergoing reoperation at both 2 and 3 years postoperatively (P=0.024 and 0.020, respectively).


FJV was independently associated with a higher reoperation rate and diminished improvement in QOL.

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