Minimally-invasive versus conventional repair of spondylolysis in athletes: A review of outcomes and return to play

John Paul G. Kolcun, Lee Onn Chieng, Karthik Madhavan, Michael Y. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Spondylolysis from pars fracture is a common injury among young athletes, which can limit activity and cause chronic back pain. While current literature has examined the relative benefits of surgical and conservative management of these injuries, no study has yet compared outcomes between conventional direct repair of pars defects and modern minimally invasive procedures. The goals of surgery are pain resolution, return to play at previous levels of activity, and a shorter course of recovery. In this review, the authors have attempted to quantify any differences in outcome between patients treated with conventional or minimally invasive techniques. A literature search was performed of the PubMed database for relevant articles, excluding articles describing conservative management, traumatic injury, or high-grade spondylolisthesis. Articles included for review involved young athletes treated for symptomatic spondylolysis with either conventional or minimally invasive surgery. Two independent reviewers conducted the literature search and judged articles for inclusion. All studies were classified according to the North American Spine Society standards. Of the 116 results of our initial search, 16 articles were included with a total of 150 patients. Due to a paucity of operative details in older studies and inconsistencies in both clinical methods and reporting among most articles, little quantitative analysis was possible. However, patients in the minimally invasive group did have significantly higher rates of pain resolution (p < 0.001). Short recovery times were also noted in this group. Both groups experienced low complication rates, and the majority of patients returned to previous levels of activity. Surgical repair of spondylolysis in young athletes is a safe and practical therapy. Current literature suggests that while conventional repair remains effective, minimally invasive procedures better clinical outcomes. We await further data to conduct a more thorough quantitative analysis of these techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-842
Number of pages11
JournalAsian Spine Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Minimally-invasive
  • MIS
  • Pars
  • Return to play
  • Spondylolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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