Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion: What Is the Evidence of Indirect Neural Decompression? A Systematic Review of the Literature

Matteo Formica, Emanuele Quarto, Andrea Zanirato, Lorenzo Mosconi, Davide Vallerga, Irene Zotta, Maddalena Lontaro Baracchini, Carlo Formica, Lamberto Felli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: In the past decade, lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) has gained in popularity. A proposed advantage is the achievement of indirect neural decompression. However, evidence of the effectiveness of LLIF in neural decompression in lumbar degenerative conditions remains unclear.

Questions/Purposes: We sought to extrapolate clinical and radiological results and consequently the potential benefits and limitations of LLIF in indirect neural decompression in degenerative lumbar diseases.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the literature in English using the 2009 Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines and checklist. Scores on the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and visual analog scale (VAS) for back and leg pain were extracted, as were data on the following radiological measurements: disc height (DH), foraminal height (FH), foraminal area (FA), central canal area (CA).

Results: In the 42 articles included, data on 2445 patients (3779 levels treated) with a mean follow-up of 14.8 ± 5.9 months were analyzed. Mean improvements in VAS back, VAS leg, and ODI scale scores were 4.1 ± 2.5, 3.9 ± 2.2, and 21.9 ± 7.2, respectively. Post-operative DH, FH, FA, and CA measurements increased by 68.6%, 21.9%, 37.7%, and 29.3%, respectively.

Conclusion: Clinical results indicate LLIF as an efficient technique in indirect neural decompression. Analysis of radiological data demonstrates the effectiveness of symmetrical foraminal decompression. Data regarding indirect decompression of central canal and lateral recess are inconclusive and contradictory. Bony stenosis appears as an absolute contraindication. The role of facet joint degeneration is unclear. This systematic review provides a reference for surgeons to define the potential and limitations of LLIF in indirect neural elements decompression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
JournalHSS Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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