Transforaminal interbody fusion versus anterior-posterior interbody fusion of the lumbar spine: a financial analysis

J Spinal Disord. 2001 Apr;14(2):100-3. doi: 10.1097/00002517-200104000-00002.


Lumbar interbody fusion can be performed anteriorly or posteriorly. An anterior approach generally requires an access surgeon and often is combined with a posterior fusion. A traditional posterior interbody fusion can destabilize the spinal motion segment and requires neural retraction. A new surgical technique, a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), was recently described. It requires minimal neural retraction, and the disk space is exposed posterolaterally with removal of only one facet joint. This study compares the cost of an anterior-posterior one-level lumbar fusion with the cost of the same procedure performed using the TLIF technique. Table 1 lists the specific demographics. A retrospective review of the hospital charges of 80 patients undergoing interbody lumbar stabilization was conducted. The two groups consisted of 40 patients with an anterior-posterior fusion and 40 patients who were fused circumferentially using the TLIF technique. A cost analysis with normalization of 1998 dollars between the two groups was performed. The TLIF group had an average operative time of 213 minutes, compared with 269 minutes for the anterior-posterior group. In addition, an average additional 38 minutes were required to turn the patient from the anterior or posterior position. The average blood loss for the anterior-posterior procedure was 969 mL, compared with 489 mL for the TLIF group. Twenty-three of the anterior-posterior patients received an average of 2.2 units of blood and six of the TLIF patients received an average of 1.3 units. Use of the surgical intensive care unit was much lower in the TLIF group (38 of 40 patients versus 2 of 40 patients). The average length of stay was 6.1 days for the anterior-posterior group compared with an average of 3.3 days for the TLIF group. The average cost of the anterior-posterior patients was $49,085, compared with $33,784 for the TLIF group. Cost analysis between the two groups show the TLIF patients had an average savings of approximately $15,000 per admission. This cost comparison was conducted only for the time of the operative procedure. No attempt was made to analyze rates of fusion between the two groups or ultimate clinic outcome. There were no major complications in either group, and no patient returned to surgery for a lumbar spinal problem at the authors' hospital within 1 year of the index procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Loss, Surgical / statistics & numerical data
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / economics*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Diseases / economics*
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery
  • Spinal Fusion / economics*
  • Spinal Fusion / methods