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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2003 May 15;28(10):1023-6.

Retrograde ejaculation after anterior lumbar interbody fusion: transperitoneal versus retroperitoneal exposure.

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Indianapolis Neurosurgical Group, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.



In this multicenter, prospective, 2-year study, 146 male patients underwent a single-level anterior lumbar interbody fusion with a tapered threaded titanium fusion device. All the patients were advised before surgery of the risk for retrograde ejaculation. After surgery, any case of retrograde ejaculation was recorded as an adverse event, and the patient was observed up for the remainder of the study.


To determine the incidence of retrograde ejaculation in male patients treated for single-level degenerative lumbar disc disease at L4-L5 or L5-S1 with a stand-alone anterior interbody fusion using tapered, threaded titanium fusion cages.


The incidence of retrograde ejaculation in men after anterior lumbosacral spinal surgery has been reported to range from 0.42% to 5.9%. Various risk factors that increase the chance of retrograde ejaculation have been proposed.


In this prospective study, 146 male patients underwent an open surgical exposure of the lumbosacral junction and a single-level interbody fusion at either L4-L5 or L5-S1. Assessment of a patient's clinical outcome was based on written questionnaires at 6 weeks and then 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery. Patients were questioned about adverse events at each of these assessments, and any case of retrograde ejaculation was recorded and followed.


Retrograde ejaculation developed in 6 of the 146 men after open anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery. Two cases (1.7%; 2/116) involved patients who underwent a retroperitoneal surgical exposure. Four cases (13.3%; 4/30) involved patients who had a transperitoneal surgical exposure. This difference is statistically significant according to Fisher's exact test (P = 0.017). At 12 months after surgery, 2 patients had resolution of their symptoms: 1 in the retroperitoneal approach group and 1 in the transperitoneal group. At the final 2-year follow-up, no changes in symptoms were reported. One patient in the retroperitoneal approach group (0.86%) and three patients in the transperitoneal group (10%) reported permanent retrograde ejaculation (P = 0.027).


A transperitoneal approach to the lumbar spine at L4-L5 and L5-S1 has a 10 times greater chance of causing retrograde ejaculation in men than a retroperitoneal approach.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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