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Indian journal of orthopaedics 44 (2): 159-62 (2010)
Lumbar degenerative spinal deformity: Surgical options of PLIF, TLIF and MI-TLIF.
Hwee Weng Dennis Hey , Hwan Tak Hee
Degenerative disease of the lumbar spine is common in ageing populations. It causes disturbing back pain, radicular symptoms and lowers the quality of life. We will focus our discussion on the surgical options of posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MI-TLIF) for lumbar degenerative spinal deformities, which include symptomatic spondylolisthesis and degenerative scoliosis. Through a description of each procedure, we hope to illustrate the potential benefits of TLIF over PLIF. In a retrospective study of 53 ALIF/PLIF patients and 111 TLIF patients we found reduced risk of vessel and nerve injury in TLIF patients due to less exposure of these structures, shortened operative time and reduced intra-operative bleeding. These advantages could be translated to shortened hospital stay, faster recovery period and earlier return to work. The disadvantages of TLIF such as incomplete intervertebral disc and vertebral end-plate removal and potential occult injury to exiting nerve root when under experienced hands are rare. Hence TLIF remains the mainstay of treatment in degenerative deformities of the lumbar spine. However, TLIF being a unilateral transforaminal approach, is unable to decompress the opposite nerve root. This may require contralateral laminotomy, which is a fairly simple procedure. The use of minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MI-TLIF) to treat degenerative lumbar spinal deformity is still in its early stages. Although the initial results appear promising, it remains a difficult operative procedure to master with a steep learning curve. In a recent study comparing 29 MI-TLIF patients and 29 open TLIF, MI-TLIF was associated with longer operative time, less blood loss, shorter hospital stay, with no difference in SF-36 scores at six months and two years. Whether it can replace traditional TLIF as the surgery of choice for degenerative lumbar deformity remains unknown and more studies are required to validate the safety and efficiency.