Are degenerative spondylolisthesis and further slippage postoperatively really issues in spinal stenosis surgery?

Bo Nyström 1 , Shaobo Jin 2 , Birgitta Schillberg 3 , Ulf Moström 4 , Per Lundin 5  and Adam Taube 2
  • 1 Clinic of Spinal Surgery, Löt, Strängnäs, Sweden
  • 2 Department of Statistics, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 3 Clinic of Spinal Surgery, Löt, Strängnäs, Sweden
  • 4 Department of Neuroradiology, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 5 Department of Radiology, Central Hospital, Västerås, Sweden
Bo Nyström, Shaobo Jin, Birgitta Schillberg, Ulf Moström, Per Lundin and Adam Taube

Abstract

Background and aims

Opinions diverge concerning the prognostic importance of preoperative degenerative spondylolisthesis in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis, as well as the significance of further slippage post-operatively following decompression alone. However, a slip is only one among several factors related to the topic, e.g. duration and intensity of back and leg pain, pre-operative walking ability, number of levels operated and not least the experience of the surgeon. Our aim was to take all of the above-mentioned factors into consideration when analysing the patients’ clinical outcome, reported as Change in back pain, Change in leg pain, Overall satisfaction and Change in walking ability, with special emphasis on the possible importance of pre- and/or post-operative degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Methods

We studied 200 consecutive patients, mean follow-up time 81 months (range 62–108). Before treatment and on the follow-up occasion all patients answered the SF-36 questionnaire and assessed their back and leg pain on a visual analogue scale (VAS). At follow-up the patients were asked about possible changes in back and leg pain (completely free, much better, somewhat better, unchanged, somewhat worse, much worse) and whether they were; satisfied with the outcome, in doubt or not satisfied. Before treatment and at follow-up the presence or not of degenerative spondylolisthesis was determined in the lateral view on a plain X-ray or MRI. By use of a microsurgical technique decompression was achieved in all patients by bilateral laminotomy not sparing the midline ligaments, irrespective of a degenerative spondylolisthesis or not. Eight surgeons with different surgical experience performed the operations. Four separate multivariate analyses were conducted, one for each clinical outcome. The Lasso method was used for variable selection and multiple imputation was applied to handle missing values.

Results

At follow-up 78.5% of the patients were completely satisfied with the outcome. Minimal clinical important difference (MCID) was achieved for 69% of the patients. Before surgery 28 patients were able to walk more than 1 km compared to 111 at follow-up. The reoperation rate at 6.8 years was 12% further decompressions and 2.5% fusions at the index level. Post-operative slippage was equally common in patients with and without a preoperative slip (around 30%). There were no notable differences in outcome in patients with and without a preoperative slip and no effect of further slippage at the index or another level post-operatively. Nor could the statistical analysis show any of the other covariates (age, gender, duration and intensity of back and leg pain, pre-operative walking ability or number of levels operated) to be of statistically significant importance for predicting the outcome. In the univariate statistical analysis differences were found between the patients of individual surgeons regarding satisfaction, pain improvement, and reoperation rates in favour of surgical experience, which were, however, not statistically significant in the multivariate analysis.

Conclusions

None of the covariates, including pre-operative spondylolisthesis and further slippage post-operatively, were statistically significant for predicting the clinical outcome.

Implication

Our results provide no evidence for adding fusion to the decompression.

    • Supplementary Material
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