R. Andrew Glennie, Christopher S. Bailey, Edward Abraham, Neil Manson, Steve Casha, Kenneth Thomas, Jerome Paquet, Greg McIntosh, Hamiton Hall, Charles G. Fisher, Y. Raja Rampersaud

December 2021, Volume 30, Issue 12, pp 3709 - 3719 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06928-8

First Online: 29 July 2021


Controversy exists regarding the optimal surgical treatment of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis (DS). Not all DS patients are the same, and the degree to which inherent stability may dictate treatment is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the variability in surgical approach relative to surgeon classified stability. The secondary objective was to compare patient-reported outcomes (PROs) across different surgical techniques and grades of stability.


Patients prospectively enrolled from eleven tertiary care institutions and followed from 2015 to 2019. The surgical technique was at the surgeon’s discretion. Surgeons were asked to grade the degree of instability based on the degenerative spondylolisthesis instability classification system (DSIC). DSIC categorizes three different types (I-stable, II-potentially unstable, and III-unstable). One-year changes in PROs were compared between each group. Multivariable regression was used to identify any characteristics that explained variability in treatment.


There were 323 patients enrolled in this study. Surgeons’ stability classification versus procedure [decompression alone (D)/decompression and posterolateral fusion (D-PL)/and decompression with posterior/transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (D-PLIF/TLIF)] were as follows: type I (n = 91): D-41%/D-PL-13%/D-PLIF/TLIF-46%; type II (n = 175): D-23%/D-PL-17%/D-PLIF/TLIF-60%; and type III (n = 57):(D-0%/D-PL-14%/D-PLIF/TLIF-86%). Type I patients undergoing D-PL had some improvements in EQ-5D and NRS versus those undergoing D-PLIF/TLIF but otherwise there were no other significant differences between groups. Regression analysis demonstrated advanced age (OR = 1.06, CI 1.02–10.12) and type I (OR = 2.61, CI 1.17–5.81) were associated with receiving decompression surgery alone.


There exists considerable variation in surgical management of DS in Canada. Given similar PROs in two of the three groups, there is potential to tailor surgical intervention and improve resource utilization.

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