Correlation between sagittal plane changes and adjacent segment degeneration following lumbar spine fusion

Eur Spine J. 2001 Aug;10(4):314-9. doi: 10.1007/s005860000239.


Adjacent segment degeneration following lumbar spine fusion remains a widely acknowledged problem, but there is insufficient knowledge regarding the factors that contribute to its occurrence. The aim of this study is to analyse the relationship between abnormal sagittal plane configuration of the lumbar spine and the development of adjacent segment degeneration. Eighty-three consecutive patients who underwent lumbar fusion for degenerative disc disease were reviewed retrospectively. Patients with spondylolytic spondylolisthesis and degenerative scoliosis were not included in this study. Mean follow-up period was 5 years. Results were analysed to determine the association between abnormal sagittal configuration and post operative adjacent segment degeneration. Thirty-one out of 83 patients (36.1%) showed radiographic evidence of adjacent segment degeneration. Patients with normal C7 plumb line and normal sacral inclination in the immediate post operative radiographs had the lowest incidence of adjacent level change compared with patients who had abnormality in one or both of these parameters. The difference was statistically significant (P<0.02). There was no statistically significant difference in the incidence of adjacent level degeneration between male and female patients; between posterior fusion alone and combined posterolateral and posterior interbody fusions; and between fusions extending down to the sacrum and fusions stopping short of the sacrum. It was concluded was that normality of sacral inclination is an important parameter for minimizing the incidence of adjacent level degeneration. Retrolisthesis was the most common type of adjacent segment change. Patients with post operative sagittal plane abnormalities should preferably be followed-up for at least 5 years to detect adjacent level changes.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / diagnostic imaging
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Fusion*
  • Time Factors