Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the Babgy-Kuslich BAK cage for anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), various threaded interbody fusion devices have been introduced. Bone dowels offer several theoretical advantages over cages with regard to stress shielding; the purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy of bone dowels in interbody fusion. All patients undergoing ALIF performed by the senior author between 1998 and 2001 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients' preoperative and postoperative neurologic status, functional status, and both back and radicular pain were assessed according to a previously published outcome measure. Between 1998 and 2000, 23 patients underwent ALIF with cortical femoral allograft bone dowels. One patient underwent simultaneous bone dowel and titanium cage placements and was therefore excluded from further analysis. The 22 remaining patients underwent a total of 33 fused segments; of these, 21 patients were available for follow-up. Mean clinical follow-up was 30.6 months. Mean imaging follow-up was 21 months. There were 5 instances of radiographic nonunion (3 symptomatic and 2 asymptomatic). The incidence of technical failures and complications related to the bone dowels was 17%. Bone dowels failed and caused symptoms only in patients with a stand-alone ALIF. There were no clinical failures in patients treated with supplemental anterior or posterior spinal fixation. These data demonstrate that marginal fusion rates and functional success rates can be achieved using stand-alone bone dowels for ALIF. The clinical success and fusion rates are significantly higher if ALIF dowels are shielded from stress with rigid spinal instrumentation.
- Anterior lumbar interbody fusion
- Bone dowels
- Lumbar degenerative disease
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Clinical Neurology