Literature indicates that adjacent-segment diseases after posterior lumbar interbody fusion with pedicle screw fixation accelerate degenerative changes at unfused adjacent segments due to the increased motion and intervertebral stress. Sagittal alignment of the spine is an important consideration as achieving proper lordosis could improve the outcome of spinal fusion and avoid the risk of adjacent segment diseases. Therefore, restoration of adequate lumbar lordosis is considered as a major factor in the long-term success of lumbar fusion. This study hypothesized that the removal of internal fixation devices in segments that have already fused together could reduce stress at the disc at adjacent segments, particularly in patients with inadequate lordosis. The purpose of this study was to analyze the biomechanical characteristics of a single fusion model (posterior lumbar interbody fusion with internal fixation) with different lordosis angles before and after removal of the internal fixation device.
Five finite element models were constructed for analysis; 1) Intact lumbar spine without any implants (INT), 2) Lumbar spine implanted with a spinal fixator and lordotic intervertebral cage at L4-L5 (FUS-f-5c), 3) Lumbar spine after removal of the spinal fixator (FUS-5c), 4) Lumbar spine implanted with a spinal fixator and non-lordotic intervertebral cage at L4-L5 (FUS-f-0c), and 5) Lumbar spine after removal of the spinal fixator from the FUS-f-0c model (FUS-0c).
The ROM of adjacent segments in the FUS-f-0c model was found to be greater than in the FUS-f-5c model. After removing the fixator, the adjacent segments in the FUS-5c and FUS-0c models had a ROM that was similar to the intact spine under all loading conditions. Removing the fixator also reduced the contact forces on adjacent facet joints and reduced the peak stresses on the discs at adjacent levels. The greatest increase in stress on the discs was found in the FUS-f-0c model (at both L2/L3 and L3/L4), with intervertebral stress at L3/L4 increasing by 83% when placed in flexion.
This study demonstrated how removing the spinal fixation construct after bone fusion could reduce intradiscal pressure and facet contact forces at adjacent segments, while retaining a suitable level of lumbar lordosis.