Anterior to psoas (ATP) fusion of the lumbar spine: evolution of a technique facilitated by changes in equipment

Cristian Gragnaniello, Kevin Seex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Lateral interbody cages have been proven useful in spinal fusions. Spanning both lateral cortical rims while sparing the Anterior Longitudinal Ligament, the lateral interbody cages restore and maintain disc height while adding stability prior to supplemental fixation. The standard approach for their insertion is by a 90-degree lateral transpsoas method. This is relatively bloodless compared to other techniques although has its limitations, requiring neuro-monitoring and being, at times, very difficult at L4/5 due to iliac crest obstruction or an anterior plexus position. An oblique approach, with the patient in lateral decubitus, passes anterior to the iliac crest, retroperitoneal, and being anterior to psoas, eliminates the need for neuro-monitoring.

Methods: Twenty-one consecutive patients underwent surgery for a total of 32 levels instrumented with the ATP technique. Mean age at the time of surgery was 62.4±7.4 years. There was a 6 months minimum clinical follow up, with imaging to assess fusion, at 6 and 12 months. Indications included symptomatic degenerative lumbar spondylosis +/- spondylolisthesis, leg and back pain. All patients were assessed with the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Visual Analog Scale 100 mm for back pain (VASb) and for leg pain (VASl) preoperatively, at 3, 6 and 12 months. Last follow-up was at 12 months for 9 patients and the rest had 6 months follow up.

Results: Statistical analysis showed significance for the results in ODI, VASb and VASl with improvement in all components except for one patient with worsening VASl. Eight patients had complications related to surgery which were still present at last follow-up including moderate weakness of hip flexion and EHL weakness. Lateral cutaneous nerve (LCN) palsy on the side of the approach was also seen as well as sympathectomy effect related to the mobilization of the sympathetic trunk. One patient, who also suffered from multiple sclerosis, experienced psoas abscess 3 months post op that required drainage.

Conclusions: The left sided anterior to psoas approach offers the most natural corridor to the disc space. The novel instruments and method described here allows insertion of large lateral cages between L2 to L5, without the problems associated with the transpsoas approach, particularly at L4/5.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-265
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Spine Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • lateral interbody fusion
  • XLIF
  • DLIF
  • lumbar fusion
  • minimally invasive fusion


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