Lumbar Plexus Anatomy within the Psoas Muscle: Implications for the Transpsoas Lateral Approach to the L4-L5 Disc

Davis, Timothy T.; Bae, Hyun W.; Mok, James M.; Rasouli, Alexandre; Delamarter, Rick B.
August 2011
Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, American Volume;8/17/2011, Vol. 93-A Issue 16, p1482
Academic Journal
Background: The transpsoas lateral surgical approach has been advocated as an alternative to direct anterior approaches for less invasive or minimally invasive access to the spine. Postoperative thigh pain, paresthesia, and/or weakness have been described after the use of this surgical approach. The purpose of this cadaveric anatomic study is to provide a description of the lumbar plexus as it relates to the transpsoas lateral surgical approach. Methods: Dissection of the lumbar plexus was performed in eighteen cadaveric specimens. Needle markers were placed in the L2-L3, L3-L4, and L4-L5 discs in the midcoronal plane. The anatomic structures were surveyed, and the proximity of the needle to the neural structures was observed. Results: In thirteen of the eighteen specimens, the femoral nerve received its contributions from the L2 to L4 nerve roots and was formed at the L4-L5 disc space. In all specimens, the femoral nerve passed dorsal to or directly at the midpoint of the disc. In three specimens, the needle displaced or was immediately adjacent to the femoral nerve. The femoral nerve was found between the needle and the posterior aspect of the L4-L5 disc space in thirteen of the eighteen specimens. Conclusions: Because of the proximity of the neural elements, in particular the femoral nerve, to the center of the disc space, the transpsoas lateral surgical approach to the L4-L5 disc space will likely cause intraoperative displacement of neural structures from their anatomic course during retractor dilation. Careful attention should be paid to retractor placement and dilation time during transpsoas lateral access surgery, particularly at the L4-L5 disc. Clinical Relevance: During the transpsoas lateral surgical approach to the L4-L5 disc space, the femoral nerve should be considered to be at risk intraoperatively because of the position and size of currently available retractors.


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