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Eur Spine J. 2015 Apr;24 Suppl 3:339-45. doi: 10.1007/s00586-015-3807-3. Epub 2015 Feb 14.

Clinical results and limitations of indirect decompression in spinal stenosis with laterally implanted interbody cages: results from a prospective cohort study.

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Neuroscience Institute, Epworth Hospital, Melbourne, VIC, 3121, Australia,



The lateral approach for anterior interbody fusion allows placement of a large footprint intervertebral spacer to indirectly decompress the neural elements through disc height restoration and resultant soft tissue changes. However, it is not well understood under what circumstances indirect decompression in lateral approach surgery is sufficient. This report aimed to evaluate clinical scenarios where indirect decompression was and was not sufficient in symptom resolution when using lateral interbody fusion.


A prospective study was undertaken of 122 consecutive patients treated with lateral interbody fusion without direct decompression. Pre- and postoperative symptomatology was assessed to evaluate the extent of neural decompression following implantation with a lateral polyetheretherketone spacer. Failure to improve or resolve preoperative radicular pain was considered a failure of indirect decompression and indicated these patients for additional posterior decompressive surgery.


Unplanned second stage decompression was required in 11 patients. Of these patients, 7/11 early in this series had pathology that was underappreciated including spondylolisthesis from high grade facet arthropathy with instability (3), bony lateral recess stenosis (3) and both spondylolisthesis/stenosis (1). Three patients had iatrogenic leg pain through cage misplacement. There was one failure of indirect decompression that could not be explained through retrospective analysis of the patient's record.


Indirect decompression clearly has a role in minimizing the amount of surgery that is required. However, it is important to consider the circumstances where this technique may be effective and preoperative considerations that may improve patient selection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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