Arthrodesis to L5 versus S1 in long instrumentation and fusion for degenerative lumbar scoliosis

Eur Spine J. 2009 Apr;18(4):531-7. doi: 10.1007/s00586-009-0883-2. Epub 2009 Jan 23.


There is a debate regarding the distal fusion level for degenerative lumbar scoliosis. Whether a healthy L5-S1 motion segment should be included or not in the fusion remains controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the optimal indication for the fusion to the sacrum, and to compare the results of distal fusion to L5 versus the sacrum in the long instrumented fusion for degenerative lumbar scoliosis. A total of 45 patients who had undergone long instrumentation and fusion for degenerative lumbar scoliosis were evaluated with a minimum 2 year follow-up. Twenty-four patients (mean age 63.6) underwent fusion to L5 and 21 patients (mean age 65.6) underwent fusion to the sacrum. Supplemental interbody fusion was performed in 12 patients in the L5 group and eleven patients in the sacrum group. The number of levels fused was 6.08 segments (range 4-8) in the L5 group and 6.09 (range 4-9) in the sacrum group. Intraoperative blood loss (2,754 ml versus 2,938 ml) and operative time (220 min versus 229 min) were similar in both groups. The Cobb angle changed from 24.7 degrees before surgery to 6.8 degrees after surgery in the L5 group, and from 22.8 degrees to 7.7 degrees in the sacrum group without statistical difference. Correction of lumbar lordosis was statistically better in the sacrum group (P = 0.03). Less correction of lumbar lordosis in the L5 group seemed to be associated with subsequent advanced L5-S1 disc degeneration. The change of coronal and sagittal imbalance was not different in both groups. Subsequent advanced L5-S1 disc degeneration occurred in 58% of the patients in the L5 group. Symptomatic adjacent segment disease at L5-S1 developed in five patients. Interestingly, the development of adjacent segment disease was not related to the preoperative grade of disc degeneration, which proved minimal degeneration in the five patients. In the L5 group, there were nine patients of complications at L5-S1 segment, including adjacent segment disease at L5-S1 and loosening of L5 screws. Seven of the nine patients showed preoperative sagittal imbalance and/or lumbar hypolordosis, which might be risk factors of complications at L5-S1. For the patients with sagittal imbalance and lumbar hypolordosis, L5-S1 should be included in the fusion even if L5-S1 disc was minimal degeneration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthrodesis / adverse effects
  • Arthrodesis / instrumentation
  • Arthrodesis / methods*
  • Bone Screws / adverse effects
  • Bone Screws / standards
  • Bone Screws / statistics & numerical data
  • Equipment Failure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Fixators / standards
  • Internal Fixators / statistics & numerical data
  • Intervertebral Disc / diagnostic imaging
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc / surgery
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / physiopathology
  • Lordosis / pathology
  • Lordosis / physiopathology
  • Lordosis / surgery
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Postoperative Hemorrhage / physiopathology
  • Preoperative Care / methods
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sacrum / anatomy & histology
  • Sacrum / diagnostic imaging
  • Sacrum / surgery*
  • Scoliosis / etiology
  • Scoliosis / physiopathology
  • Scoliosis / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome