The biomechanical effect of single-level laminectomy and posterior instrumentation on spinal stability in degenerative lumbar scoliosis: a human cadaveric study

Christine M E Rustenburg*, Sayf S A Faraj, Roderick M Holewijn, Idsart Kingma, Barend J van Royen, Agnita Stadhouder, Kaj S Emanuel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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OBJECTIVE Degenerative lumbar scoliosis, or de novo degenerative lumbar scoliosis, can result in spinal canal stenosis, which is often accompanied by disabling symptoms. When surgically treated, a single-level laminectomy is performed and short-segment posterior instrumentation is placed to restore stability. However, the effects of laminectomy on spinal stability and the necessity of placing posterior instrumentation are unknown. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the stability of lumbar spines with degenerative scoliosis, characterized by the range of motion (ROM) and neutral zone (NZ) stiffness, after laminectomy and placement of posterior instrumentation.

METHODS Ten lumbar cadaveric spines (T12-L5) with a Cobb angle >= 10 degrees and an apex on L3 were included. Three loading cycles were applied per direction, from -4 Nm to 4 Nm in flexion/extension (FE), lateral bending (LB), and axial rotation (AR). Biomechanical evaluation was performed on the native spines and after subsequent L3 laminectomy and the placement of posterior L2-4 titanium rods and pedicle screws. Nonparametric and parametric tests were used to analyze the effects of laminectomy and posterior instrumentation on NZ stiffness and ROM, respectively, both on an individual segment's motion and on the entire spine section. Spearman's rank correlation coefficient was used to study the correlation between disc degeneration and spinal stability.

RESULTS The laminectomy increased ROM by 9.5% in FE (p = 0.04) and 4.6% in LB (p = 0.01). For NZ stiffness, the laminectomy produced no significant effects. Posterior instrumentation resulted in a decrease in ROM in all loading directions (-22.2%, -24.4%, and -17.6% for FE, LB, and AR, respectively; all p <0.05) and an increase in NZ stiffness (+44.7%, +51.7%, and +35.2% for FE, LB, and AR, respectively; all p <0.05). The same changes were seen in the individual segments around the apex, while the adjacent, untreated segments were mostly unaffected. Intervertebral disc degeneration was found to be positively correlated to decreased ROM and increased NZ stiffness.

CONCLUSIONS Laminectomy in lumbar spines with degenerative scoliosis did not result in severe spinal instability, whereas posterior instrumentation resulted in a rigid construct. Also, prior to surgery, the spines already had lower ROM and higher NZ stiffness in comparison to values shown in earlier studies on nonscoliotic spines of the same age. Hence, the authors question the clinical need for posterior instrumentation to avoid instability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Pages (from-to)E15
Number of pages8
JournalNeurosurgical Focus
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • biomechanics
  • de novo degenerative lumbar scoliosis
  • lumbar spinal stenosis
  • spinal stability

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