Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is a well-established surgical treatment for patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease; however, the optimal position for the interbody fusion cage in TLIF procedures for reducing cage-related complications remains uncertain. The present study aims to compare the biomechanical effects between different cage positions in TLIF and percutaneous endoscopic-TLIF (PE-TLIF).
An intact finite element model of L3-L5 from computed tomography images of a 25-year-old healthy male without any lumbar disease was reconstructed and validated. TLIF and PE-TLIF were performed on L4-L5 with bilateral pedicle screws fixation. Two surgical finite element models were subjected to loads with six degrees of freedom. The range of motion (ROM) and von Mises stress of the implantations and endplates were measured for the anterior, middle, and posterior district and the traverse or oblique direction of the cage respectively.
As the cage was implanted forward, the ROMs in the fused L4-L5 segments and the von Mises stress of the cage and endplates decreased while the von Mises stress of the screws increased; this was also shown in the traverse cage when compared with the oblique cage (A-90-compared with A-45- had a 31.3%, 1.7%, 12.6%, and 5.7% decrease in FL, EX, LB and AR). The ROMs (TLIF A-45 increase of 80.8%, 23.8%, and 12.2% in FL, EX, and LB when compared with PE-TLIF), cage stress, and endplate stress of PE-TLIF were lower than those of TLIF.
Considering the ROM of the fusion segments, implanting the cage in the anterior district in the traverse direction can effectively enhance the fusion segment stiffness, thus contributing to the stability of the lumbar spine after fusion. It can also cause less cage stress and endplate stress, which indicates its beneficial effect in avoiding cage injury or subsidence. However, the higher stress of the pedicle screws and rods indicates higher failure risk. PE-TLIF had better biomechanical performance than TLIF. Therefore, it is recommended that the surgeon implant the cage in the anterior district of the L5 vertebra’s upper endplate in the traverse direction using the PE-TLIF technique.

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