An analysis of postoperative thigh symptoms after minimally invasive transpsoas lumbar interbody fusion

J Neurosurg Spine. 2011 Jul;15(1):11-8. doi: 10.3171/2011.2.SPINE10374. Epub 2011 Apr 8.


Objective: The minimally invasive transpsoas interbody fusion technique requires dissection through the psoas muscle, which contains the nerves of the lumbosacral plexus posteriorly and genitofemoral nerve anteriorly. Retraction of the psoas is becoming recognized as a cause of transient postoperative thigh pain, numbness, paresthesias, and weakness. However, few reports have described the nature of thigh symptoms after this procedure.

Methods: The authors performed a review of patients who underwent the transpsoas technique for lumbar spondylotic disease, disc degeneration, and spondylolisthesis treated at a single academic medical center. A review of patient charts, including the use of detailed patient-driven pain diagrams performed at equal preoperative and follow-up intervals, investigated the survival of postoperative thigh pain, numbness, paresthesias, and weakness of the iliopsoas and quadriceps muscles in the follow-up period on the ipsilateral side of the surgical approach.

Results: Over a 3.2-year period, 59 patients underwent transpsoas interbody fusion surgery. Of these, 62.7% had thigh symptoms postoperatively. New thigh symptoms at first follow-up visit included the following: burning, aching, stabbing, or other pain (39.0%); numbness (42.4%); paresthesias (11.9%); and weakness (23.7%). At 3 months postoperatively, these percentages decreased to 15.5%, 24.1%, 5.6%, and 11.3%, respectively. Within the patient sample, 44% underwent a 1-level, 41% a 2-level, and 15% a 3-level transpsoas operation. While not statistically significant, thigh pain, numbness, and weakness were most prevalent after L4-5 transpsoas interbody fusion at the first postoperative follow-up. The number of lumbar levels that were surgically treated had no clear association with thigh symptoms but did correlate directly with surgical time, intraoperative blood loss, and length of hospital stay.

Conclusions: Transpsoas interbody fusion is associated with high rates of immediate postoperative thigh symptoms. While larger, prospective studies are necessary to validate these findings, the authors found that half of the patients had symptom resolution at approximately 3 months postoperatively and more than 90% by 1 year.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / etiology*
  • Hypesthesia / physiopathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / physiopathology
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects*
  • Spinal Fusion / methods
  • Thigh / physiopathology*