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This article is the author’s final published version in Journal of Craniovertebral Junction and Spine, Volume 13, Issue 3, July 2022, Pages 325 - 330.

The published version is available at Copyright © Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications.


Context: Abdominal pain after surgery can occur for numerous reasons. Postoperative radiographs may be indicated to evaluate for ileus or other reasons for the pain. Whether outcomes are significantly different based on whether patients get radiographs following lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) are unclear.

Aims: To investigate the postoperative outcomes of patients experiencing abdominal pain after LLIF.

Settings and design: This retrospective cohort study included patients at a tertiary academic medical center and surrounding affiliated hospitals.

Materials and methods: Patients >18 years of age who underwent elective LLIF at a single institution were retrospectively identified. Patients were stratified into two groups depending on whether they received a postoperative abdominal radiograph or computed tomography (CT) scan for postoperative abdominal pain.

Statistical analysis: Patient demographics, surgical characteristics, and surgical outcomes were compared between groups utilizing independent t-tests or Mann-Whitney U-tests for continuous variables or Pearson's Chi-square tests for categorical variables.

Results: A total of 153 patients (18 with abdominal scans, 135 without) were included. Patients who received a postoperative abdominal radiograph or CT scan were more likely to undergo exploratory laparotomy (11.1% vs. 0.00%, P = 0.013). Ultimately, patients with abdominal scans had a longer hospital length of stay (6.67 vs. 3.79 days, P = 0.002) and were discharged home less frequently (71.4% vs. 83.7%, P = 0.002).

Conclusions: Patients who received abdominal imaging after LLIF were more likely to undergo exploratory laparotomy, experience longer hospital length of stay, and were discharged home less frequently. Intra-abdominal air on postoperative imaging without corresponding physical exam findings consistent with bowel injury is not an appropriate indication for surgical intervention.

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