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The importance of the anterior longitudinal ligament in lumbar disc arthroplasty: 36-Month follow-up experience in extreme lateral total disc replacement



Current total disc replacement (TDR) for lumbar spine requires an anterior approach for implantation but presents inherent limitations, including risks to the abdominal structures, as well as resection of the anterior longitudinal ligament. By approaching the spine laterally, it is possible to preserve the stabilizing ligaments, which are a natural restraint to excessive rotations and translations, and thereby help to minimize facet stresses. This less invasive approach also offers a biomechanical advantage of placement of the device over the ring apophysis bilaterally; importantly, it also offers a greater opportunity for safer revision surgery, if necessary, by avoiding scarring of the anterior vasculature. We present the clinical and radiologic results of a lateral TDR device from a prospective single-center study.


A new metal-on-metal TDR device designed for implantation through a true lateral, retroperitoneal, transpsoatic approach (extreme lateral interbody fusion) was implanted in 36 patients with discography-confirmed 1- or 2-level degenerative disc disease. Clinical (pain and function) and radiographic (range of motion) outcome assessments were prospectively collected preoperatively, postoperatively, and serially up to a minimum of 36 months' follow-up.


Between December 2005 and December 2006, 36 surgeries were performed in 16 men and 20 women (mean age, 42.6 years). These included 15 single-level TDR procedures at L3-4 or L4-5, 3 2-level TDR procedures spanning L3-4 and L4-5, and 18 hybrid procedures (anterior lumbar interbody fusion) at L5-S1 and TDR at L4-5 (17) or L3-4 (1). Operative time averaged 130 minutes, with mean blood loss of 60 mL and no intraoperative complications. Postoperative X-rays showed good device placement, with restoration of disc height, foraminal volume, and sagittal balance. All patients were up and walking within 12 hours of surgery, and all but 9 were discharged the next day (7 of those 9 were hybrid TDR–anterior lumbar interbody fusion cases). Postoperatively, 5 of 36 patients (13.8%) had psoas weakness and 3 of 36 (8.3%) had anterior thigh numbness, with both symptoms resolving within 2 weeks. Of the 36 patients, 4 (11%) had postoperative facet joint pain, all in hybrid cases. Visual analog scale pain scores and Oswestry Disability Index scores improved by 74.5% and 69.2%, respectively, from preoperatively to 3-year follow-up. Range of motion at 3 years postoperatively averaged 8.1°. Signals of heterotopic ossification were present in 5 patients (13.9%), and 2 patients (5.5%) were considered to have fusion after 36 months.


The clinical and radiographic results of a laterally placed TDR have shown maintenance of pain relief and functional improvement over a long-term follow-up period. The benefits of the lateral access—minimal morbidity, avoidance of mobilization of the great vessels, preservation of the anterior longitudinal ligament, biomechanically stable orientation, and broader revision options—promote a new option for motion-preservation procedures.

arthroplasty, total disc replacement, XLIF, minimally invasive, Lateral approach
Volume 6