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Technical note: Resolution of spontaneous electromyographic discharge following disk-space distraction during lateral transpsoas interbody fusion

Michael Neil Woodall, MD, Basheer Shakir, MD, Adam Smitherman, MD, Haroon Choudhri, MD



The lateral transpsoas interbody fusion (LTIF) is an increasingly popular minimally invasive technique for lumbar interbody fusion. Although a posterior approach to the lumbar spine has traditionally been favored for the treatment of canal stenosis and neural foraminal stenosis, a growing body of evidence suggests that indirect decompression of the spinal canal and neural foramen can be achieved using a lateral transpsoas approach to the lumbar spine. We present 2 cases that may suggest a role for spontaneous electromyography (s-EMG) monitoring in assessing the adequacy of decompression during LTIF.


The 2 cases presented in this technical note illustrate resolution of s-EMG firing during LTIF, following distraction across the disk space. Removal of the distracting device produced the return of s-EMG firing. Both of these cases were operated at the L2-3 level.


In the first case, s-EMG firing was noted in the bilateral tibialis anterior leads. Resolution of EMG firing may suggest indirect decompression of the canal via ligamentotaxis as the L5 root traverses the L2-3 disk space. In the second case, s-EMG firing was noted in the left abductor hallucis and resolved with distraction of the L2-3 disk space. Again, this may be explained by canal decompression via ligamentotaxis as the S1 root traverses the L2-3 disk space.


In both cases, distraction across the disk space resulted in resolution of s-EMG discharges—this correlated with an improvement in symptoms. These findings may suggest a role for s-EMG as a marker for adequacy of decompression in a select subset of patients undergoing LTIF. Further study is needed to determine if resolution of s-EMG is a useful measure of indirect decompression during LTIF.

LTIF, LLIF, XLIF, DLIF, Indirect decompression, Transpsoas
Volume 7