Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) exposes the anterior aspect of the spine through a retroperitoneal approach. Access to the anterior spine requires mobilization of intra-abdominal viscera/vasculature, which can become complicated as scarring and/or adhesions develop from prior abdominal surgical interventions, increasing risk of intraoperative complications. The literature suggests that “significant prior abdominal surgery” is a relative contraindication of ALIF surgery; however, there is no consensus within the literature as to what defines “major/significant” abdominal surgeries. Additionally, the association between the number of prior abdominal surgeries and perioperative complications in ALIF surgery has not been explored within the literature.
This study seeks to explore the association between perioperative complications of ALIF surgery and the type (major and/or minor) and number of prior abdominal surgeries.
A retrospective cohort study was performed to examine perioperative complications in ALIF patients with or without prior history of abdominal surgery.
All consecutive patients undergoing ALIF with or without a history of prior abdominal surgery from 2008 to 2018 at a single tertiary center were evaluated. Patients under the age of 18, patients with spinal malignancy, or patients who had ALIF above L3 were excluded.
Perioperative complications included intraoperative complications during ALIF surgery and postoperative complications within 90 days of ALIF surgery. Intraoperative complications include vascular injury, ureter injury, retroperitoneal hematoma, etc. Postoperative complications include urinary tract infection, revision of abdominal scar, ileus, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, etc. Other outcome measures include readmission within 90 days, length of ALIF surgery, and length of hospital stay.
Electronic medical records of 660 patients who underwent ALIF between 2008 and 2018 were retrospectively reviewed. Patient demographics, Charleston Comorbidity Index (CCI), level of fusion, past abdominal surgical history, use of access surgeon during exposure, intraoperative, and postoperative complications were collected. Predictors of intraoperative and postoperative complications were analyzed using simple and multivariable logistic regression. Statistical analysis was performed using JMP 14.0 (SAS, Cary, North Carolina) software.
After controlling for age, length of ALIF, gender, multilevel ALIF, and the use of an access surgeon, there was no significant association between the type of prior abdominal surgery (major and/or minor) and intraoperative complications on multivariable logistic regression analysis (Minor: OR=1.68; 95% CI: .58-4.86 & Major: OR=1.99; 95% CI: .80-4.91). On multivariable logistic regression, the odds of developing an intraoperative complication increases by 52% for each additional prior abdominal surgery after adjusting for age, length of ALIF, gender, multilevel ALIF, and the use of an access surgeon (OR=1.52, 95% CI: 1.10 – 2.11). Iliac vein laceration was the most common intraoperative complication (n=27, 4%). Neither the type (major and/or minor) nor the number of prior abdominal surgeries were significant predictors of postoperative complications (Minor: OR=1.29; 95% CI: .72-2.31, Major: OR=1.24; 95% CI: .77-2.00, & Number: OR=1.03; 95% CI: .84-1.26).
With each additional prior abdominal surgery, accumulation of scarring and adhesions can likely obscure anatomical landmarks and increase the risk of developing an intraoperative complication. Therefore, the number of prior abdominal surgeries should be taken into consideration during planning and operative exposure of the anterior spine via a retroperitoneal approach.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.