Comparison of minimally invasive and conventional open posterolateral lumbar fusion using magnetic resonance imaging and retraction pressure studies

Kathryn J. Stevens, David B. Spenciner, Karen L. Griffiths, Kee D Kim, Marike Zwienenberg-Lee, Todd Alamin, Roland Bammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine whether minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion results in less paraspinal muscle damage than conventional open posterior fusion. METHODS: The maximum intramuscular pressure (IMP) generated by a minimally invasive and standard open retractor was compared in cadavers using an ultra-miniature pressure transducer. In a second clinical study, eight patients with either minimally invasive or open posterolateral lumbar spinal fusion underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning approximately 6 months post surgery. MRI was used to estimate edema and atrophy within multifidus, with T2 mapping and diffusion-weighted imaging allowing quantification of differences between the two surgical techniques. RESULTS: IMP measured with the minimally invasive retractor was 1.4 versus 4.7 kPa with the open retractor (P<0.001). The minimally invasive retractor produced a transient maximal IMP only on initial expansion. Maximum IMP was constant throughout open retractor deployment. Striking visual differences in muscle edema were seen between open and minimally invasive groups on MRI. The mean T2 relaxation time at the level of fusion was 47 milliseconds in the minimally invasive and 90 milliseconds in the open group (P=0.013). The mean apparent diffusion coefficient was 1357×10 mm/s and 1626×10 mm/s (P=0.0184), respectively. CONCLUSIONS: The peak IMP generated by the minimally invasive retractor was significantly less than with the open retractor. Postoperatively, less muscle edema was demonstrated after the minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion, with lower mean T2 and apparent diffusion coefficient measurements supporting the hypothesis that less damage occurs using a minimally invasive approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Diffusion-weighted imaging
  • Intramuscular pressure
  • Lumbar fusion
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Retractor
  • T2 relaxation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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