Biomechanical Evaluation of Lumbar Decompression Adjacent to Instrumented Segments

Peter Grunert, Phillip M. Reyes, Anna G.U.S. Newcomb, Sara B. Towne, Brian P. Kelly, Nicholas Theodore, Roger Härtl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Multilevel lumbar stenosis, in which 1 level requires stabilization due to spondylolisthesis, is routinely treated with multilevel open laminectomy and fusion. We hypothesized that a minimally invasive (MI) decompression is biomechanically superior to open laminectomy and may allow decompression of the level adjacent the spondylolisthesis without additional fusion. OBJECTIVE: To study the mechanical effect of various decompression procedures adjacent to instrumented segments in cadaver lumbar spines. METHODS: Conditions tested were (1) L4-L5 instrumentation, (2) L3-L4 MI decompression, (3) addition of partial facetectomy at L3-L4, and (4) addition of laminectomy at L3-L4. Flexibility tests were performed for range of motion (ROM) analysis by applying nonconstraining, pure moment loading during flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation. Compression flexion tests were performed for motion distribution analysis. RESULTS: After instrumentation, MI decompression increased flexion-extension ROM at L3-L4 by 13% (P .03) and axial rotation by 23% (P .003). Partial facetectomy further increased axial rotation by 15% (P .03). After laminectomy, flexion-extension ROM further increased by 12% (P .05), a 38% increase from baseline, and axial rotation by 17% (P .02), a 58% increase from baseline. MI decompression yielded no significant increase in segmental contribution of motion at L3-L4, in contrast to partial facetectomy and laminectomy (<.05). CONCLUSION: MI tubular decompression is biomechanically superior to open laminectomy adjacent to instrumented segments. These results lend support to the concept that in patients in whom a multilevel MI decompression is performed, the fusion might be limited to the segments with actual instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)895-903
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomechanics
  • Lumbar fusion
  • MIS decompression
  • Spine
  • Spine degeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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