The comparison between anterior and posterior approaches for removal of infected lumbar interbody cages and a proposal regarding the use of endoscope-assisted technique


In cases of postoperative deep wound infection after interbody fusion with cages, it is often difficult to decide whether to preserve or remove the cages, and there is no consensus on the optimal approach for removing cages. The aim of this study was to investigate the surgical management of cage infection after lumbar interbody fusion.


A retrospective study was conducted between January 2012 and August 2018. Patients were included if they had postoperative deep wound infection and required cage removal. Clinical outcomes, including operative parameters, visual analog scale, neurologic status, and fusion status, were assessed and compared between anterior and posterior approaches for cage removal.


Of 130 patients who developed postoperative infection and required surgical debridement, 25 (27 levels) were diagnosed with cage infection. Twelve underwent an anterior approach, while 13 underwent cage removal with a posterior approach. Significant differences were observed between the anterior and posterior approaches in elapsed time to the diagnosis of cage infection, operative time, and hospital stay. All patients had better or stationary American Spinal Injury Association impairment scale, but one case of recurrence in adjacent disc 3 months after the surgery.


Both anterior and posterior approaches for cage removal, followed by interbody debridement and fusion with bone grafts, were feasible methods and offered promising results. An anterior approach often requires an additional extension of posterior instrumentation due to the high incidence of concurrent pedicle screw loosening. The use of an endoscope-assisted technique is suggested to facilitate safe removal of cages.


Cage infection; Cage removal; Endoscope; Lumbar interbody fusion; Surgical approach.

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