Open Access Open Badges Research article

No correlation between slip reduction in low-grade spondylolisthesis or change in neuroforaminal morphology and clinical outcome

HS Femke Hagenmaier1, Diyar Delawi2, Nico Verschoor3, F Cumhur Oner2 and Job LC van Susante1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedics, Rijnstate Hospital, Postbus 9555, Arnhem 6800 TA, The Netherlands

2 Department of Orthopaedics, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

3 Department of Orthopaedics, Jeroen Bosch Ziekenhuis, Den Bosch, The Netherlands

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:245  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-245

Published: 19 August 2013



In instrumented posterolateral fusion reduction of a spondylolisthesis is appealing on theoretical grounds since this may lead to indirect decompression of the entrapped nerve roots. However, there is no consensus in the literature whether a beneficial effect of reduction on outcome can be expected. The objective of the current study was to evaluate whether a correlation between the extent of listhesis reduction and clinical improvement could be established.


From two ongoing prospective studies 72 patients with a single-level instrumented posterolateral lumbar fusion for low-grade spondylolisthesis (isthmic/degenerative 51/21) were evaluated. Radiographs and clinical outcome scores were available at baseline, 6 weeks and 1 year after surgery. Changes in neuroforaminal morphology were measured on calibrated radiographs. These changes in radiographic parameters were correlated to clinical outcome (Visual Analogue Score (VAS) leg pain, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI)). Fusion status was assessed on Computed Tomography-scan at one year.


A mean spondylolisthesis of 25 percent was reduced to 15 percent at 6 weeks with some loss of reduction to 17 percent at one year. The VAS and ODI significantly improved at both time intervals after surgery (p < 0.001). No significant correlations could be established between the extent of slip reduction and improvement in VAS or ODI (Pearson’s correlation −0.2 and 0.07 respectively at one year); this also accounted for the other radiographic parameters. A fusion rate of 64 percent was seen on CT-scan.


Clinical outcome was not related to the obtained radiographic reduction of the slipped vertebra in patients with a lumbar fusion for low grade spondylolisthesis. Loss of reduction or non-union on CT-scans had no effect on the clinical outcome. Reduction of a low-grade spondylolisthesis in spinal fusion is appealing, however, there is no evidence that it positively affects clinical outcome on the short term.

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Slip reduction; Low-grade spondylolisthesis; Neuroforaminal morphology; Clinical outcome; Posterolateral lumbar fusion; Radiographs