Several approaches (anterior, posterior, lateral, and transforaminal) are used in lumbar fusion surgery. However, it is unclear whether one of these approaches has the greatest subsidence risk as published clinical rates of cage subsidence vary widely (7–70%). Specifically, there is limited data on how a patient's endplate morphometry and trabecular bone quality influences cage subsidence risk. Therefore, this study compared subsidence (stiffness, maximum force, and work) between anterior (ALIF), lateral (LLIF), posterior (PLIF), and transforaminal (TLIF) lumbar interbody fusion cage designs to understand the impact of endplate and trabecular bone quality on subsidence. Forty-eight lumbar vertebrae were imaged with micro-ct to assess trabecular microarchitecture. micro-ct images of each vertebra were then imported into image processing software to measure endplate thickness (ET) and maximum endplate concavity depth (ECD). Generic ALIF, LLIF, PLIF, and TLIF cages made of polyether ether ketone were implanted on the superior endplates of all vertebrae and subsidence testing was performed. The results indicated that TLIF cages had significantly lower (p < 0.01) subsidence stiffness and maximum subsidence force compared to ALIF and LLIF cages. For all cage groups, trabecular bone volume fraction was better correlated with maximum subsidence force compared to ET and concavity depth. These findings highlight the importance of cage design (e.g., surface area), placement on the endplate, and trabecular bone quality on subsidence. These results may help surgeons during cage selection for lumbar fusion procedures to mitigate adverse events such as cage subsidence.

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