Defining the inherent stability of degenerative spondylolisthesis: a systematic review

J Neurosurg Spine. 2015 Aug;23(2):178-89. doi: 10.3171/2014.11.SPINE1426. Epub 2015 May 15.


OBJECT A range of surgical options exists for the treatment of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis (DLS). The chosen technique inherently depends on the stability of the DLS. Despite a substantial body of literature dedicated to the outcome analysis of numerous DLS procedures, no consensus has been reached on defining or classifying the disorder with respect to stability or the role that instability should play in a treatment algorithm. The purpose of this study was to define grades of stability and to develop a guide for deciding on the optimal approach in surgically managing patients with DLS. METHODS The authors conducted a qualitative systematic review of clinical or biomechanical analyses evaluating the stability of and surgical outcomes for DLS for the period from 1990 to 2013. Research focused on nondegenerative forms of spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis without associated DLS was excluded. The primary extracted results were clinical and radiographic parameters indicative of DLS instability. RESULTS The following preoperative parameters are predictors of stability in DLS: restabilization signs (disc height loss, osteophyte formation, vertebral endplate sclerosis, and ligament ossification), no disc angle change or less than 3 mm of translation on dynamic radiographs, and the absence of low-back pain. The validity and magnitude of each parameter's contribution can only be determined through appropriately powered prospective evaluation in the future. Identifying these parameters has allowed for the creation of a preliminary DLS instability classification (DSIC) scheme based on the preoperative assessment of DLS stability. CONCLUSIONS Spinal stability is an important factor to consider in the evaluation and treatment of patients with DLS. Qualitative assessment of the best available evidence revealed clinical and radiographic parameters for the creation of the DSIC, a decision aid to help surgeons develop a method of preoperative evaluation to better stratify DLS treatment options.

Keywords: DLS = degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis; DSIC = degenerative spondylolisthesis instability classification; MeSH = Medical Subject Headings; degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis; qualitative systematic review; restabilization; stability; surgical technique.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Decompression, Surgical / methods
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / surgery*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Lumbosacral Region / surgery*
  • Spinal Stenosis / surgery*
  • Spondylolisthesis / surgery*