Study design: An investigation of the in vitro biomechanical effects of multilevel fenestrations and discectomies on the behavior of whole lumbar spine motion, using a material testing system (Instron 1341, Instron Limited, High Wycombe, England) and Elite three-dimensional motion analysis system (BTS, Milano, Italy).
Objectives: To investigate the effects of multilevel fenestrations and discectomies on the stability of the whole lumbar spine, including segmental stiffness and sagittal (horizontal and vertical) translation.
Summary of background data: In the management of lumbar spinal stenosis, wide decompressive laminectomy with partial or total facetectomy has been the standard procedure for multilevel nerve decompression. Main complications with these procedures have been instability and chronic pain syndrome. Multilevel fenestration with undermining enlargement of the spinal canal has been selected for multilevel nerve decompression in recent years. However, the biomechanical effects of multilevel fenestration and discectomy have been controversial and difficult to validate. This study investigated the in vitro biomechanical effects of multilevel fenestrations and discectomies on motion behavior of the whole lumbar spine.
Methods: Seven fresh human specimens from L1 to sacrum were used in this study. The fenestrations and discectomies consisted of L3-L4 bilateral fenestration, L4-L5 bilateral fenestration, L5-S1 bilateral fenestration, L4-L5 discectomy, and L5-S1 discectomy. Flexion, lateral bending, and axial rotation (torsion) loading were applied. Ranges of motion were determined two-dimensionally by the Elite system with an infrared camera. The postoperation results were compared with the intact conditions.
Results: After multiple fenestrations, the sagittal ranges of motion at L4-L5 increased by 18% anteroposteriorly and 16% vertically under the flexion loads. At L5-S1, the motions increased by 19% and 45%, respectively. After fenestrations and discectomies, the ranges of motion in the sagittal plane increased by 28% horizontally and 71% vertically at L4-L5, and 14% and 166% at L5-S1. Motion increases were statistically significant (P < 0.05) in vertical translations. However, after the multilevel surgeries, no significant motions were found in each of the lumbar segments during lateral bending and axial rotation.
Conclusions: The results demonstrate that multilevel fenestrations and discectomies affect lumbar spinal stability in flexion, but have no effect on the stability of the lumbar spine in lateral bending or axial rotation.