Published online Jan 18, 2013. doi: 10.5312/wjo.v4.i1.19
Revised: December 18, 2012
Accepted: December 23, 2012
Published online: January 18, 2013
The new millennium has witnessed the emergence of minimally invasive, non-posterior based surgery of the lumbar spine, in particular via lateral based methodologies to discectomy and fusion. In contrast, and perhaps for a variety of reasons, anterior motion preservation (non-fusion) technologies are playing a comparatively lesser, though incompletely defined, role at present. Lateral based motion preservation technologies await definition of their eventual role in the armamentarium of minimally invasive surgical therapies of the lumbar spine. While injury to the major vascular structures remains the most serious and feared complication of the anterior approach, this occurrence has been nearly eliminated by the use of lateral based approaches for discectomy and fusion cephalad to L5-S1. Whether anterior or lateral based, non-posterior approaches to the lumbar spine share certain access related pitfalls and complications, including damage to the urologic and neurologic structures, as well as gastrointestinal and abdominal wall issues. This review will focus on the recognition, management and prevention of these anterior and lateral access related complications.