OBJECTIVE The inability to significantly improve sagittal parameters has been a limitation of minimally invasive surgery for transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MIS TLIF). Traditional cages have a limited capacity to restore lordosis. This study evaluates the use of a crescent-shaped articulating expandable cage (Altera) for MIS TLIF. METHODS This is a retrospective review of 1- and 2-level MIS TLIF. Radiographic outcomes included differences in segmental and lumbar lordosis, disc height, evidence of fusion, and any endplate violations. Clinical outcomes included the numeric rating scale for leg and back pain and the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) for low-back pain. RESULTS Thirty-nine patients underwent single-level MIS TLIF, and 5 underwent 2-level MIS TLIF. The mean age was 63.1 years, with 64% women. On average, spondylolisthesis was corrected by 4.3 mm (preoperative = 6.69 mm, postoperative = 2.39 mm, p < 0.001), the segmental angle was improved by 4.94° (preoperative = 5.63°, postoperative = 10.58°, p < 0.001), and segmental height increased by 3.1 mm (preoperative = 5.09 mm, postoperative = 8.19 mm, p < 0.001). At 90 days after surgery the authors observed the following: a smaller postoperative sagittal vertical axis was associated with larger changes in back pain at 90 days (r = -0.558, p = 0.013); a larger decrease in spondylolisthesis was associated with greater improvements in ODI and back pain scores (r = -0.425, p = 0.043, and r = -0.43, p = 0.031, respectively); and a larger decrease in pelvic tilt (PT) was associated with greater improvements in back pain (r = -0.548, p = 0.043). For the 1-year PROs, the relationship between the change in PT and changes in ODI and numeric rating scale back pain were significant (r = 0.612, p = 0.009, and r = -0.803, p = 0.001, respectively) with larger decreases in PT associated with larger improvements in ODI and back pain. Overall for this study there was a 96% fusion rate. Fourteen patients were noted to have endplate violation on intraoperative fluoroscopy during placement of the cage. Only 3 of these had progression of their subsidence, with an overall subsidence rate of 6% (3 of 49) visible on postoperative CT. CONCLUSIONS The use of this expandable, articulating, lordotic, or hyperlordotic interbody cage for MIS TLIF provides a significant restoration of segmental height and segmental lordosis, with associated improvements in sagittal balance parameters. Patients treated with this technique had acceptable levels of fusion and significant reductions in pain and disability.
Keywords: EBL = estimated blood loss; LL = lumbar lordosis; MIS = minimally invasive surgery; NRS = numeric rating scale; ODI = Oswestry Disability Index; OR = operating room; PI = pelvic incidence; PRO = patient-reported outcome; PT = pelvic tilt; SVA = sagittal vertical axis; TLIF; TLIF = transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion; lordotic cage; minimally invasive; spondylolisthesis; transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion.