A variety of surgical techniques can be used to achieve lumbar spinal fusion for management of degenerative conditions. Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is the most popular technique; however, midline lumbar interbody fusion (MIDLIF) is a valid alternative to the more traditional pedicle screw trajectory with potential advantages. The aim of this study is to evaluate the clinical outcomes from a cohort of patients submitted to MIDLIF in a single hospital during the surgical team’s initial learning period.
The first 30 consecutive patients who underwent single- or two-level MIDLIF surgery for lumbar degenerative disease were included in this retrospective study. Patients’ demographics, surgical data, length of hospitalisation, and perioperative complications were analysed. Preoperative and postoperative radiographic parameters were obtained. Validated questionnaires, Core Outcome Measure Index for the back, Euro-QoL 5-Dimensional Questionnaire, and Oswestry Disability Index, were used for clinical assessment.
Mean surgery time was 278.53 ± 82.16 min and mean hospitalisation time was 6.17 ± 3.51 days. Six patients experienced complications, four of which being dural tears with no consequences, and two required reoperations during the mean follow-up of 25.23 ± 9.74 months. Preoperative and postoperative radiological parameters did not demonstrate significant differences. All clinical parameters significantly improved after surgery (p < 0.001). A complexity score was developed to more accurately compare the different procedures, and it strongly correlated with surgery duration (r = 0.719, p < 0.001). Furthermore, a moderate correlation was found between a developed Duration Index and the patient's order number (r = - 0.539, p = 0.002).
In our initial experience, MIDLIF showed to be effective in significantly improving the patients’ functional status, pain scores, and quality of life. The technique seems safe, with an acceptably low complication rate. Hence, MIDLIF can be considered as a promising alternative to more traditional TLIF and PLIF techniques even at the beginning of the learning curve.