Study design: Retrospective radiographic outcomes analysis.
Objective: We had 3 hypotheses: 1) a longer fusion; 2) a more proximal instrumented vertebra, and 3) circumferential fusion versus posterior-only fusion would increase the likelihood of adjacent segment disease (ASD).
Summary of background data: The literature analyzing risk factors, prevalence, and presentation of patients with ASD is varied and without clear consensus.
Methods: A total of 188 patients with minimum 5-year follow-up who had lumbar/thoracolumbar fusion with pedicle screw instrumentation for degenerative disorders were included. Radiographic ASD was defined by: 1) development of spondylolisthesis >4 mm, 2) segmental kyphosis >10 degrees , 3) complete collapse of disc space, or 4) more than 2 grades worsening of Weiner classification. Clinical ASD was defined as 1) symptomatic spinal stenosis, 2) intractable back pain, or 3) subsequent sagittal or coronal imbalance.
Results: Radiographic ASD occurred in 42.6% (80 of 188) of patients. Patients with radiographic ASD had worse Oswestry scores (20.3 vs. 12.5; P = 0.001) at ultimate follow-up than those without ASD. Clinical ASD developed in 30.3% (57 of 188) of patients. Clinical ASD manifested as spinal stenosis (n = 47), instability-type back pain (n = 5), and sagittal or coronal imbalance (n = 5). Age at surgery over 50 years and length of fusion were significant risk factors for the development of ASD in the lumbar spine. Fusion to L1-L3 proximally increased the risk of ASD when compared with L4 and L5. Circumferential fusion versus posterior fusion was not a significant factor in the development of ASD.
Conclusion: Patients over the age of 50 were at higher risk of developing clinical ASD than those 50 years old or younger. Length of fusion was a significant risk factor in the development of ASD in the lumbar spine. Fusion up to L1-L3 increased the risk of ASD when compared with L4 and L5. Circumferential fusion, as opposed to posterolateral fusion, was not a statistically significant risk factor for the development of ASD.