Posterior Lumbar Fusion: Choice of Approach and Adjunct Techniques

Charla R. Fischer J Am Acad Orthop Surg August 2014 vol. 22 no. 8

The choice among the many options of approach and adjunct techniques in planning a posterior lumbar fusion can be problematic. Debates remain as to whether solid fusion has an advantage over pseudarthrosis regarding long-term symptom deterioration and whether an instrumented or a noninstrumented approach will best serve clinically and/or cost effectively, particularly in elderly patients. Increased motion resulting in higher rates of nonunion and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been studied in animal models and are presumed risk factors, despite the lack of clinical investigation. Smoking is a proven risk factor for pseudarthrosis in both animal models and level III clinical studies. Recent long-term studies and image/clinical assessment of lumbar fusions and pseudarthrosis show that, although imaging remains a key area of difficulty in assessment, including an instrumented approach and a well-selected biologic adjunct, as well as achieving a solid fusion, all carry important long-term clinical advantages in avoiding revision surgery for nonunion.

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