Background: Concerns have been raised regarding residual symptoms of caudal segment (L5-S1) degeneration that may affect clinical outcomes or require additional surgery after isolated L4-5 fusion, especially if there is pre-existing L5-S1 degeneration. This study aimed to evaluate the L5-S1 segment after minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion at the L4-5 segment, as well as the influence of pre-existing L5-S1 degeneration on radiologic and clinical outcomes.
Methods: This retrospective study evaluated patients with isthmic spondylolisthesis and degenerative spondylolisthesis who underwent mini-open anterior lumbar interbody fusion with percutaneous pedicle screw fixation (PSF) or minimally invasive transforaminal interbody fusion with PSF at the L4-5 segment. The minimum follow-up period was 7 years, and radiographic evaluations were conducted via magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and plain radiography at the 5-year follow-up. Clinical outcomes were assessed using the Visual Analog Score, Oswestry Disability Index, and surgical satisfaction rate. Patients were divided into two groups, those with and without pre-existing L5-S1 degeneration, and their final outcomes and incidence of radiographic and clinical adjacent segment disease (ASD) were compared.
Results: Among 70 patients who underwent the procedures at our institution, 12 (17.1%) were lost to follow-up. Therefore, this study evaluated 58 patients, with a mean follow-up period of 9.4 ± 2.1 years. Among these patients, 22 patients had pre-existing L5-S1 degeneration, while 36 patients did not have pre-existing L5-S1 segmental degeneration. There were no significant differences in the clinical outcomes at the final follow-up when the two groups were compared. However, radiographic ASD at L5-S1 occurred in seven patients (12.1%), clinical ASD at L5-S1 occurred in three patients (5.2%), and one patient (1.7%) required surgery. In the group with pre-existing degeneration, L5-S1 degeneration was radiographically accelerated in four patients (18.2%) and clinical ASD developed in one patient (4.5%). In the group without pre-existing degeneration, L5-S1 degeneration was radiographically accelerated in three patients (8.3%) and clinical ASD developed in two patients (5.7%). There were no differences in the incidence of ASD when we compared the two groups.
Conclusions: Pre-existing L5-S1 degeneration does not affect clinical and radiographical outcomes after isolated L4-5 fusion.