A comparative study of perioperative complications between transforaminal versus posterior lumbar interbody fusion in degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis

Jiaming Liu, Huilin Deng, Xinhua Long, Xuanyin Chen, Risheng Xu, Zhili Liu
European Spine Journal 2016, 25 (5): 1575-1580

BACKGROUND: Both posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) are accepted surgical techniques for the treatment of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis (DLS). However, it is still unclear one technique offers distinct advantages over the other.

OBJECTIVE: A retrospective study was performed to compare perioperative complications and functional outcomes of patients undergoing TLIF versus PLIF for DLS.

METHODS: A total of 226 consecutive patients who underwent surgery for treatment of DLS at three institutions were evaluated from January 2012 to December 2014. In this series, 125 patients underwent PLIF and 101 received TLIF. The operative time, blood loss, allogeneic blood transfusion rate and perioperative complications (including re-operative rate, nerve root injury, dural tear, wound infection) were compared between the two groups. Pain (VAS) and functional outcomes of patients (Kirkaldy-Willis criteria) were quantified before surgery and 1 week after surgery.

RESULTS: Patients involved in the two groups had similar baseline demographic, clinical and radiographic characteristics. The PLIF group was associated with a higher incidence of post-operative iatrogenic nerve root dysfunction [12 cases (9.6 %) versus 2 cases (1.9 %), P = 0.018] and dural tears [15 cases (12 %) versus 4 cases (3.9 %), P = 0.030]. The re-operation rate was significantly higher in patients undergoing PLIF [13 cases (10.4 %) versus 2 cases (1.9 %), P = 0.011]. In addition, intra-operative blood loss, operative times, and allogeneic blood transfusion rates were higher in the PLIF group when compared to the TLIF group (P < 0.05). The wound infection rate of the PLIF group was similar to that of the TLIF group (7.2 versus 5.0 %, P = 0.486). VAS scores were decreased from 7.08 ± 1.13 to 2.84 ± 0.89 in the PLIF group, and from 7.18 ± 1.09 to 2.84 ± 0.91 in the TLIF group, respectively (P = 0.32). 85.6 % of patients in the TLIF group had good or excellent functional outcomes within the first post-operative week compared to 83.2 % in the PLIF group (P = 0.64).

CONCLUSION: Both PLIF and TLIF were equally beneficial in improving short-term functional outcomes for patients with DLS. However, PLIFs were associated with statistically significant higher incidences of nerve root injury, dural tears, allogeneic blood transfusion, increased intra-operative times, blood loss and re-operations. Therefore, caution should be exercised when considering PLIFs.

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