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J Neurosurg Spine. 2014 Jul;21(1):54-61. doi: 10.3171/2014.4.SPINE14274.

Guideline update for the performance of fusion procedures for degenerative disease of the lumbar spine. Part 9: lumbar fusion for stenosis with spondylolisthesis.

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Department of Neurosurgery, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin;


Patients presenting with stenosis associated with a spondylolisthesis will often describe signs and symptoms consistent with neurogenic claudication, radiculopathy, and/or low-back pain. The primary objective of surgery, when deemed appropriate, is to decompress the neural elements. As a result of the decompression, the inherent instability associated with the spondylolisthesis may progress and lead to further misalignment that results in pain or recurrence of neurological complaints. Under these circumstances, lumbar fusion is considered appropriate to stabilize the spine and prevent delayed deterioration. Since publication of the original guidelines there have been a significant number of studies published that continue to support the utility of lumbar fusion for patients presenting with stenosis and spondylolisthesis. Several recently published trials, including the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial, are among the largest prospective randomized investigations of this issue. Despite limitations of study design or execution, these trials have consistently demonstrated superior outcomes when patients undergo surgery, with the majority undergoing some type of lumbar fusion procedure. There is insufficient evidence, however, to recommend a standard approach to achieve a solid arthrodesis. When formulating the most appropriate surgical strategy, it is recommended that an individualized approach be adopted, one that takes into consideration the patient's unique anatomical constraints and desires, as well as surgeon's experience.


ODI = Oswestry Disability Index; PLF = posterolateral lumbar fusion; PLIF = posterior lumbar interbody fusion; SPORT = Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial; TLIF = transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion; VAS = visual analog scale; fusion; lumbar spine; practice guidelines; spondylolisthesis; stenosis

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