Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Global Spine J


Study Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Objective: Anterior approaches are often used during lumbar interbody fusion procedures. Visceral injuries (bowel injuries) are rare but represent a primary risk during anterior approaches to the lumbar spine. Left untreated, these injuries can result in significant complications. The aim of this study was to investigate the presentation and management of bowel injury cases following anterior approaches to the lumbar spine to raise the surgeon's awareness of this rare complication.

Methods: All direct anterior, oblique anterior, and transpsoas lumbar interbody fusion surgeries performed at our institution between 2012 and 2016 were analyzed retrospectively. Charts were screened for cases requiring return to the operating room owing to a suspected bowel injury and details of the case were extracted for illustrative purposes.

Results: A total of 775 anterior lumbar surgeries were conducted at a single tertiary care institution between July 2012 and June 2017. A total of 590 transpsoas lumbar interbody fusion (TPIF) surgeries were performed. Four patients, each having undergone TPIF, were suspected of bowel injury and underwent an exploratory laparotomy. At surgery, 3 patients were confirmed to have a bowel injury, giving a procedure-specific incidence of 0.51% and overall incidence of 0.39%. Among the 3 confirmed bowel injury cases, average delay between surgery and visceral injury diagnosis was 4.7 days (range 3-7 days).

Conclusions: We noted abdominal pain, distention, and fever as the most common findings in the setting of a visceral injury. A high index of suspicion and computed tomography imaging remain critical for identifying postoperative bowel injuries.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)



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