Is there a place for surgical repair in adults with spondylolysis or grade-I spondylolisthesis—a systematic review and treatment algorithm



      Pars repair is less explored in adults due to associated disc degeneration with advancing age. The aim of our systematic review was to define optimal characteristics of adults with spondylolysis/grade-I spondylolisthesis suitable for pars repair and evaluate the feasibility, effectiveness, and safety of standard repair techniques in these adults.


      This systematic review is reported in line with PRISMA-P and protocol is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42020189208). Electronic searches were conducted in PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Web of Science in June 2020 using systematic search strategy. Studies involving adults aged ≥18-years with spondylolysis/grade-1 isthmic spondylolisthesis treated with standard pars repair techniques were considered eligible. A two-staged (titles/abstracts and full-text) screening was conducted independently by three authors followed by quality assessment using the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklist for selection of final articles for narrative synthesis.


      A total of 5,813-articles were retrieved using systematic search strategy. First screening followed by removal of duplicates resulted in 111-articles. Second (full-text) screening resulted in exclusion of 64-articles. A final 47-articles were considered for data extraction after quality assessment. A total of 590-adults were enrolled across 47-studies; 93% were ‘young adults’ (18–35 years); 82% were males. Persistent low back pain was the common presenting complaint. Lysis defect was primarily bilateral (96.4%) and L5 was the most involved level (68.5%). Majority had no disc degeneration (83.5%) and had spondylolysis as the primary diagnosis (86%); only 14% had grade-I spondylolisthesis. Pars infiltration test was conducted in 22-studies and discography in 8-studies. Duration of prior conservative therapy was 3 to 72-months. Buck's repair was the commonest technique (27-studies, 372-adults). Successful repair was reported in 86% of patients treated with Buck's and ≥90% treated with Scott's, Morscher's and pedicle-screw-based techniques. Improvement in pain/functional outcomes, union rate and rate-of-return to sports/activity was high and comparable across all techniques. Intraoperative blood loss was low with minimally invasive versus traditional repair. The overall complication rate was 11.9%, with implant failure being the major complication.


      Our systematic review establishes a definite place for lysis repair in carefully selected adults with spondylolysis/grade-I spondylolisthesis. We propose a treatment algorithm for optimizing patient selection and outcomes. We conclude that adults with age 18 to 45 years, no/mild disc or facet degenerative changes, positive diagnostic infiltration test, and normal preoperative discography will have successful outcomes with pars repair, regardless of the technique.


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