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Spine J. 2018 Nov;18(11):1999-2008. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2018.03.014. Epub 2018 Apr 6.

Does approach matter? A comparative radiographic analysis of spinopelvic parameters in single-level lumbar fusion.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 1250 16th St, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 1250 16th St, Santa Monica, CA 90404, USA. Electronic address:



Lumbar fusion is a popular and effective surgical option to provide stability and restore anatomy. Particular attention has recently been focused on sagittal alignment and radiographic spinopelvic parameters that apply to lumbar fusion as well as spinal deformity cases. Current literature has demonstrated the effectiveness of various techniques of lumbar fusion; however, comparative data of these techniques are limited.


This study aimed to directly compare the impact of various lumbar fusion techniques (anterior lumbar interbody fusion [ALIF], lateral lumbar interbody fusion [LLIF], transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion [TLIF], and posterolateral fusion [PLF]) based on radiographic parameters.


A single-center retrospective study examining preoperative and postoperative radiographs was carried out.


A consecutive list of lumbar fusion surgeries performed by multiple spine surgeons at a single institution from 2013 to 2016 was identified.


Radiographic measurements used included segmental lordosis (SL), lumbar lordosis (LL), pelvic incidence (PI), pelvic incidence-lumbar lordosis (PI-LL) mismatch, anterior and posterior disc height (DH-A, DH-P, respectively), and foraminal height (FH).


Radiographic measurements were performed on preoperative and postoperative lateral lumbar radiographs on all single-level lumbar fusion cases. Demographic data were collected including age, gender, approach, diagnosis, surgical level, and implant lordosis. Paired sample t test, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), McNemar test, and independent sample t test were used to establish significant differences in the outcome measures. Multiple linear regression was performed to determine a predictive model for lordosis from implant lordosis, fusion technique, and surgical level.


There were 164 patients (78 men, 86 women) with a mean age of 60.1 years and average radiographic follow-up time of 9.3 months. These included 34 ALIF, 23 LLIF, 63 TLIF, and 44 PLF surgeries. ALIF and LLIF significantly improved SL (7.9° and 4.4°), LL (5.5° and 7.7°), DH-A (8.8 mm and 5.8 mm), DH-P (3.4 mm and 2.3 mm), and FH (2.8 mm and 2.5 mm), respectively (p≤.003). TLIF significantly improved these parameters, albeit to a lesser extent: SL (1.7°), LL (2.7°), DH-A (1.1 mm), DH-P (0.8 mm), and FH (1.1 mm) (p≤.02). PLF did not significantly alter any of these parameters while significantly reducing FH (-1.3 mm, p=.01). One-way ANOVA showed no significant differences between ALIF and LLIF other than ALIF with greater ΔDH-A (3.0 mm, p=.02). Both ALIF and LLIF significantly outperformed PLF in preoperative to postoperative changes in all parameters p≤.001. Additionally, ALIF significantly outperformed TLIF in the change in SL (6.2°, p<.001), and LLIF significantly outperformed TLIF in the change in LL (5.0°, p=.02). Both outperformed TLIF in ΔDH-A (7.7 mm and 4.7 mm) and ΔDH-P (2.6 mm and 1.5 mm), respectively (p≤.02). ALIF was the only fusion technique that significantly improved the proportion of patients with a PI-LL<10° (0.410.66, p=.02). Lordotic cages had superior improvement of all parameters compared with non-lordotic cages (p<.001). Implant lordosis (m=1.1), fusion technique (m=6.8), and surgical level (m=6.9) significantly predicted postoperative SL (p<.001, R2=0.56).


This study demonstrated that these four lumbar fusion techniques yield divergent radiographic results. ALIF and LLIF produced greater improvements in radiographic measurements postoperatively compared with TLIF and PLF. ALIF was the most successful in improving PI-LL mismatch, an important parameter relating to sagittal alignment. Lordotic implants provided better sagittal correction and surgeons should be cognizant of the impact that these differing implants and techniques produce after surgery. Surgical technique is an important determinant of postoperative alignment and has ramifications upon sagittal alignment in lumbar fusion surgery.


ALIF; LLIF; Lumbar interbody fusion; Lumbar lordosis; PI-LL; PLF; Sagittal alignment; Segmental lordosis; TLIF

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