Indirect foraminal decompression after anterior lumbar interbody fusion: a prospective radiographic study using a new pedicle-to-pedicle technique

Spine J. 2015 May 1;15(5):817-24. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2014.12.019. Epub 2014 Dec 25.


Background context: A frequently quoted advantage of anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is indirect foraminal decompression, although there are few studies substantiating this statement. Also, there are no clinical studies using a standardized method to measure the foraminal area (FA) and the correlation with disc height (DH) parameters. This study is proposed to measure the degree of indirect foraminal decompression radiologically using a standardized method and correlate with the intervertebral disc parameters.

Purpose: To standardize the foramen measurement technique. To measure indirect neural foraminal decompression in surgically operated patients after ALIF using radiographic measurement and elucidate factors affecting foraminal restoration.

Study design: A prospective cohort study.

Patient sample: A continuous cohort of patients undergoing ALIF surgery.

Outcome measures: It included FA, foraminal height (FH), and foraminal width.

Methods: This is a prospective analysis of a single surgeon series of consecutive patients undergoing an ALIF from 2011 to 2013. Pre- and postoperative computed tomography scans were used to obtain a standardized foramen snapshot using the pedicle-to-pedicle (P-P) technique, and measurements were obtained using image j software. Radiologic parameters such as DH, local disc angle (LDA), and lumbar lordosis (LL) were measured using radiographs and Surgimap software.

Results: One-hundred forty patients with 184 levels were operated. Anterior lumbar interbody fusion resulted in a statistically significant (p<.01) improvement in foraminal dimensions (area=67%, height=21%, and width=38%). Other parameters also significantly improved, including anterior DH (90%), posterior DH (77%), LDA, and LL (6%). Posterior DH correlated significantly with FH improvement. Statistically, the P-P technique presented with high intra- and interclass reliabilities.

Conclusions: Anterior lumbar interbody fusion results in significant indirect foraminal decompression based on the new P-P technique. Posterior DH is a significant factor in the restoration of the FH.

Keywords: Anterior lumbar interbody fusion; Disc height; Fine cut CT; Foramen measurement; Indirect decompression; P-P technique.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Decompression, Surgical / instrumentation
  • Decompression, Surgical / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / diagnostic imaging
  • Intervertebral Disc / surgery*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pedicle Screws / adverse effects*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation
  • Spinal Fusion / methods*