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Adjacent Segment Disease after Lumbar or Lumbosacral Fusion: Review of the Literature

Park, Paul MD; Garton, Hugh J. MD, MHsc; Gala, Vishal C. MD; Hoff, Julian T. MD; McGillicuddy, John E. MD

Literature Review

Study Design. Review of the literature.

Objectives. Review the definition, etiology, incidence, and risk factors associated with as well as potential treatment options.

Summary of Background Data. The development of pathology at the mobile segment next to a lumbar or lumbosacral spinal fusion has been termed adjacent segment disease. Initially reported to occur rarely, it is now considered a potential late complication of spinal fusion that can necessitate further surgical intervention and adversely affect outcomes.

Methods. MEDLINE literature search.

Results. The most common abnormal finding at the adjacent segment is disc degeneration. Biomechanical changes consisting of increased intradiscal pressure, increased facet loading, and increased mobility occur after fusion and have been implicated in causing adjacent segment disease. Progressive spinal degeneration with age is also thought to be a major contributor. From a radiographic standpoint, reported incidence during average postoperative follow-up observation ranging from 36 to 369 months varies substantially from 5.2 to 100%. Incidence of symptomatic adjacent segment disease is lower, however, ranging from 5.2 to 18.5% during 44.8 to 164 months of follow-up observation. The rate of symptomatic adjacent segment disease is higher in patients with transpedicular instrumentation (12.2–18.5%) compared with patients fused with other forms of instrumentation or with no instrumentation (5.2–5.6%). Potential risk factors include instrumentation, fusion length, sagittal malalignment, facet injury, age, and pre-existing degenerative changes.

Conclusion. Biomechanical alterations likely play a primary role in causing adjacent segment disease. Radiographically apparent, asymptomatic adjacent segment disease is common but does not correlate with functional outcomes. Potentially modifiable risk factors for the development of adjacent segment disease include fusion without instrumentation, protecting the facet joint of the adjacent segment during placement of pedicle screws,fusion length, and sagittal balance. Surgical management, when indicated, consists of decompression of neural elements and extension of fusion. Outcomes after surgery, however, are modest.

The development of pathology at the mobile segment next to a lumbar or lumbosacral fusion has been termed adjacent segment disease (ASD) and is considered a potential late complication of spinal fusion. This article reviews the definition, etiology, incidence, and risk factors associated with ASD as well as treatment options.

From the Department of Neurosurgery, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI.

Acknowledgment date: April 25, 2003. First revision date: July 25, 2003. Second revision date: September 29, 2003. Acceptance date: October 6, 2003.

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work. No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this manuscript.

Address reprint requests to Paul Park, MD, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Michigan Health System, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Room 2128TC, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0338;E-mail: ppark@umich.edu

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.