One of the principal goals of minimally invasive surgery has been to speed postoperative recovery. In this case series, the authors used an endoscopic technique for interbody fusion combined with percutaneous screw fixation to obviate the need for general anesthesia.
The first 10 consecutive patients treated with a minimum of 1 year's follow-up were included in this series. The patients were all treated using endoscopic access through Kambin's triangle to allow for neural decompression, discectomy, endplate preparation, and interbody fusion. This was followed by percutaneous pedicle screw and connecting rod placement using liposomal bupivacaine for long-acting analgesia. No narcotics or regional anesthetics were used during surgery.
All patients underwent the procedure successfully without conversion to open surgery. The patients' average age was 62.2 ± 9.0 years (range 52–78 years). All patients had severe disc height collapse, and 60% had a Grade I spondylolisthesis. The mean operative time was 113.5 ± 6.3 minutes (range 105–120 minutes), and blood loss was 65 ± 38 ml (range 30–190 ml). The mean length of hospital stay was 1.4 ± 1.3 nights. There were no intraoperative or postoperative complications. Comparison of preoperative and final clinical metrics demonstrated that the Oswestry Disability Index improved from 42 ± 11.8 to 13.3 ± 15.1; the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) Physical Component Summary improved from 47.6 ± 3.8 to 49.7 ± 5.4; the SF-36 Mental Component Summary decreased from 47 ± 3.9 to 46.7 ± 3.4; and the EQ-5D improved from 10.7 ± 9.5 to 14.2 ± 1.6. There were no cases of nonunion identified radiographically on follow-up imaging.
Endoscopic fusion under conscious sedation may represent a feasible alternative to traditional lumbar spine fusion in select patients. Larger clinical series are necessary to validate that clinical improvements are sustained and that arthrodesis rates are successful when compared with open surgery. This initial experience demonstrates the possible utility of this procedure.