Study Design: Retrospective review
Objective: To compare the incidence and type of exposure-related complications for anterior lumbar surgery performed with and without an “access” surgeon.
Summary of Background Data: No data exist comparing the incidence and type of exposure-related complications for anterior lumbar surgery performed with and without a vascular surgeon's assistance.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed for 265 consecutive patients who underwent anterior lumbar spine surgery at our institution from 2003 to 2005. Each patient's records were reviewed for diagnosis, procedure, whether the surgical exposure was conducted by the spine surgeon (Spine) or with a vascular surgeon's assistance (Team), levels exposed, complications, and any lasting sequelae.
Results: The percentage of patients with at least 1 intraoperative complication was 8% and 12% for the Spine and Team cases, respectively. Two percent of the Spine patients experienced an intraoperative vascular complication compared with 7% of the Team cases. No intraoperative vascular complication occurred in the single-level Spine exposures. Four percent of the patients with single-level exposures with Team approaches sustained an intraoperative vascular complication. Eight percent of the multilevel Spine cases sustained an intraoperative vascular complication compared with 9% of the multilevel Team exposures. There were 14 vascular injuries appreciated intraoperatively in a total of 13 patients. These injuries were directly repaired in 10 patients without any residual sequelae. The rate of vascular complications was statistically higher for multiple-level exposures (9%) versus single-level exposure (3%; P=0.0357). The rate of retrograde ejaculation was 6% in the Spine cases whereas it was 7% in the Team approach.
Conclusions: Our results do not support the notion that the presence of an “access” surgeon will change the type and rate of complications. With adequate training and judgment, spine surgeons may safely perform such exposures, provided vascular surgical assistance is readily available.