Complications associated with single-level transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion

Spine J. 2009 Aug;9(8):623-9. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2009.04.004. Epub 2009 May 30.


Background context: The transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) procedure has become an increasingly popular means of obtaining a circumferential fusion while avoiding the morbidity of the anterior approach. Concerns remain, however, regarding the clinical efficacy and safety of its use.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the complications of the single-level TLIF procedure. The difference in complications observed with the use of iliac crest autograft compared with rhBMP-2 will be assessed.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study; a review of complications.

Methods: Patients who underwent a single-level TLIF between January 2004 to May 2007 with either autograft iliac crest or rhBMP-2 were identified. A retrospective review of these patients included operative reports, pre- and postoperative medical records, most recent postoperative dynamic and static lumbar radiographs, and computed tomography scans (when available).

Results: A total of 130 patients met the study criteria; 119 patients were available for follow-up, with an average radiographic follow-up of 19.1 months and an average clinical follow-up of 27.6 months. Thirty-three patients received iliac crest autograft and 86 patients received rhBMP-2. Complications occurred in 40 of the 119 study patients (33.6%). The autograft group had a higher complication rate (45.5% vs. 29.1%), but the difference was not statistically significant (p=.09). Complications in the autograft group included persistent donor-site pain (30.3%), donor-site infection (3.1%), lumbar wound infection (6.1%), and postoperative radiculitis (3.0%). Complications in the rhBMP-2 group included postoperative radiculitis (14.0%), vertebral osteolysis (5.8%), ectopic bone formation (2.3%), and lumbar wound infection (3.5%). A hydrogel sealant (Duraseal; Confluent Surgical Inc., Waltham, MA, USA) was used in 37 out of 86 patients in the rhBMP-2 group. The use of this sealant decreased the rate of postoperative radiculitis in the rhBMP-2 group from 20.4% to 5.4% (p=.047). The radiographic nonunion rate at most recent follow-up was 3.0% in the autograft group and 3.5% (p=.90) in the rhBMP-2 group.

Conclusions: The most common complications in the autograft group were related to the donor site. The most common complication in the rhBMP-2 group was postoperative radiculitis, the incidence of which is reduced by the use of a hydrogel sealant.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects*
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / therapeutic use
  • Transplantation, Autologous


  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2