Hui Liu, Haowen Cui, Zihao Li, Jianru Wang, Zemin Li, Anand Mani Upadhyay, Jiaming Cui, Hua Wang, Jian Zhang, Fan Chen, Zhaomin Zheng

January 2021, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 97 - 107 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06570-w

First Online: 20 August 2020

Correlation study of radiographic characteristics and operative difficulty in lateral-anterior lumbar interbody fusion (LaLIF) at the L4-5 level: a novel classification for case selection


To analyze correlations between the realistic surgical difficulty of LaLIF and anatomic characteristics in radiographic images, in order to develop a simple classification to provide guiding information for case selection and evaluate the potential risks of the technique.


Ninety-six consecutive cases who underwent LaLIF surgeries at the L4-5 level with MR T2-weighted images were analyzed. A novel classification based on the anatomic relationships among the disk, great vessels, and psoas muscle was used for grouping. Clinical outcomes and realistic surgical difficulty parameters were recorded, and comparisons were made among different types of classifications.


Of the 96 analyzed cases, the time of surgical exposure was significantly longer for type C than for type B, and both of these were longer than that of type A. The VAS and ODI were significantly improved at a 1-year follow-up. There was no statistically significant difference among the three types. Type C had the highest incidence of complications, while Type A had the lowest. Analyses of another 304 MRI cases obtained in outpatient clinics showed that the distribution of the three types among these cases was consistent with that of the surgical cohort.


Our novel and simple classification provides useful information for case selection. Type A provided the best indication and is most appropriate for a beginner in this technique. Type C includes the most challenging situations, which may have a high incidence of complications and require sophisticated surgical skills to achieve satisfactory outcomes and avoid approach-related complications.

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