Study design: Systematic review.
Objective: To identify whether there is an advantage to instrumented or noninstrumented spinal fusion over decompression alone for patients with degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis.
Summary of background data: The operative management of degenerative spondylolisthesis includes spinal decompression with or without instrumented or noninstrumented spinal fusion. Evidence on the operative management of degenerative spondylolisthesis is still divisive.
Methods: Relevant RCT and comparative observational studies between 1966 and June 2005 were identified. Abstracted outcomes included clinical outcome, reoperation rate, and solid fusion status. Analyses were separated into: 1) fusion versus decompression alone and 2) instrumented fusion versus noninstrumented fusion.
Results: Thirteen studies were included. The studies were generally of low methodologic quality. A satisfactory clinical outcome was significantly more likely with fusion than with decompression alone (relative risk, 1.40; 95% confidence interval, 1.04-1.89; P < 0.05). The use of adjunctive instrumentation significantly increased the probability of attaining solid fusion (relative risk, 1.37; 95% confidence interval, 1.07-1.75; P < 0.05), but no significant improvement in clinical outcome was recorded (relative risk, 1.19; 95% confidence interval, 0.92-1.54). There was a nonsignificant trend toward lower repeat operations with fusion compared with both decompression alone and instrumented fusion.
Conclusion: Spinal fusion may lead to a better clinical outcome than decompression alone. No conclusion about the clinical benefit of instrumenting a spinal fusion could be made. However, there is moderate evidence that the use of instrumentation improves the chance of achieving solid fusion.