Multifidus muscle injury and atrophy are common after posterior lumbar spine surgery and are associated with low back pain and functional disability. In theory, muscle-splitting and retraction with a self-retaining retractor are considered to be the major surgical factors. The effects and mechanisms of retraction have been well studied, but the exact effect and possible mechanism of injury and atrophy after muscle-splitting still lack experimental evidence.Methods:
New Zealand White rabbits were divided into two groups. In group S, through a skin and lumbodorsal fascial incision, the bilateral multifidus muscles were dissected from the osseous structures in the standard fashion, while in group C, only a skin and lumbodorsal fascial incision was made. In each group, the multifidus muscle was evaluated by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and by histological analysis at three and forty-eight hours and at one, three, six, twelve, and twenty-four weeks after surgery.Results:
In group C, there was no injury or atrophy of the multifidus muscle after surgery. In group S, the mean T2-weighted signal intensity ratios of gross multifidus to psoas on fat-suppressed T2-weighted cross-sectional MRI scans peaked on week 3 and returned to baseline on week 24. Necrosis and inflammation of the multifidus muscle were evident and became more severe at one week. Fibrotic change was mainly seen at three and six weeks after surgery, and fatty degeneration mainly occurred at twelve and twenty-four weeks. Decreased acetylcholine activity and granular degeneration of the neuromuscular junction were observed at all follow-up times, and the numbers of degenerating neuromuscular junctions increased significantly with time after surgery.Conclusions:
The splitting approach is an important cause of multifidus muscle injury and atrophy in posterior lumbar spine surgery. Denervation and disuse may be important factors in multifidus muscle atrophy in the splitting approach.Clinical Relevance:
This study provides a basis for the prevention of multifidus muscle injury and atrophy after posterior lumbar surgery.