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Karthik Madhavan, Lee Onn Chieng, Lynn McGrath, Christoph P. Hofstetter and Michael Y. Wang


Asymmetrical degeneration of the disc is one of the most common causes of primary degenerative scoliosis in adults. Coronal deformity is usually less symptomatic than a sagittal deformity because there is less expenditure of energy and hence less effort to maintain upright posture. However, nerve root compression at the fractional curve or at the concave side of the main curve can give rise to debilitating radiculopathy.


This study was a retrospective analysis of 16 patients with coronal deformity of between 10° and 20°. All patients underwent endoscopic foraminal decompression surgery. The pre- and postoperative Cobb angle, visual analog scale (VAS), 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), and Oswestry Disability Index scores were measured.


The average age of the patients was 70.0 ± 15.5 years (mean ± SD, range 61–86 years), with a mean followup of 7.5 ± 5.3 months (range 2–14 months). The average coronal deformity was 16.8° ± 4.7° (range 10°–41°). In 8 patients the symptomatic foraminal stenosis was at the level of the fractional curve, and in the remaining patients it was at the concave side of the main curve. One of the patients included in the current cohort had to undergo a repeat operation within 1 week for another disc herniation at the adjacent level. One patient had CSF leakage, which was repaired intraoperatively, and no further complications were noted. On average, preoperative VAS and SF-36 scores showed a tendency for improvement, whereas a dramatic reduction of VAS, by 65% (p = 0.003), was observed in radicular leg pain.


Patients with mild to moderate spinal deformity are often compensated and have tolerable levels of back pain. However, unilateral radicular pain resulting from foraminal stenosis can be debilitating. In select cases, an endoscopic discectomy or foraminotomy enables the surgeon to decompress the symptomatic foramen with preservation of essential biomechanical structures, delaying the need for a major deformity correction surgery.

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Lynn B. McGrath Jr., Karthik Madhavan, Lee Onn Chieng, Michael Y. Wang and Christoph P. Hofstetter

Approximately half a million spinal fusion procedures are performed annually in the US. It is estimated that up to one-third of arthrodesis constructs require revision surgeries. In this study the authors present endoscopic treatment strategies targeting 3 types of complications following arthrodesis surgery: 1) adjacent-level foraminal stenosis; 2) foraminal stenosis at an arthrodesis segment; and 3) stenosis caused by a displaced interbody cage.

A retrospective chart review of 11 patients with a mean age of 68 ± 15 years was performed (continuous variables are shown as the mean ± SEM). All patients had a history of lumbar arthrodesis surgery and suffered from unilateral radiculopathy. Endoscopic revision surgeries were done as outpatient procedures, and there were no intraoperative or perioperative complications. The cohort included 3 patients with foraminal stenosis at the level of previous arthrodesis. They presented with unilateral radicular leg pain (visual analog scale [VAS] score: 7.3 ± 2.1) and were severely disabled, as evidenced by an Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) of 46 ± 4.9. Transforaminal endoscopic foraminotomies were performed, and at a mean follow-up time of 9.0 ± 2.5 months VAS was reduced by an average of 6.3. The cohort also includes 7 patients suffering unilateral radiculopathy due to adjacent-level foraminal stenosis. Preoperative VAS for leg pain of the symptomatic side was 6.0 ± 1.6, VAS for back pain was 5.2 ± 1.7, and ODI was 40 ± 6.33. Endoscopic decompression led to reduction of the ipsilateral leg VAS score by an average of 5, resulting in leg pain of 1 ± 0.5 at an average of 8 months of follow-up. The severity of back pain remained stable (VAS 4.2 ± 1.4). Two of these patients required revision surgery for recurrent symptoms. Finally, this study includes 1 patient who presented with weakness and pain due to retropulsion of an L5/S1 interbody spacer. The patient underwent an endoscopic interlaminar approach with partial resection of the interbody cage, which resulted in complete resolution of her radicular symptoms.

Endoscopic surgery may be a useful adjunct for management of certain arthrodesis-related complications. Endoscopic foraminal decompression of previously fused segments and resection of displaced interbody cages appears to have excellent outcomes, whereas decompression of adjacent segments remains challenging and requires further investigation.

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Karthik Madhavan, Lee Onn Chieng, Christoph P. Hofstetter and Michael Y. Wang

Isthmic spondylolisthesis due to pars defects resulting from trauma or spondylolysis is not uncommon. Symptomatic patients with such pars defects are traditionally treated with a variety of fusion surgeries. The authors present a unique case in which such a patient was successfully treated with endoscopic discectomy without iatrogenic destabilization.

A 31-year-old man presented with a history of left radicular leg pain along the distribution of the sciatic nerve. He had a disc herniation at L5/S1 and bilateral pars defects with a Grade I spondylolisthesis. Dynamic radiographic studies did not show significant movement of L-5 over S-1. The patient did not desire to have a fusion. After induction of local anesthesia, the patient underwent an awake transforaminal endoscopic discectomy via the extraforaminal approach, with decompression of the L-5 and S-1 nerve roots. His preoperative pain resolved immediately, and he was discharged home the same day. His preoperative Oswestry Disability Index score was 74, and postoperatively it was noted to be 8. At 2-year follow-up he continued to be symptom free, and no radiographic progression of the listhesis was noted.

In this case preservation of stabilizing structures, including the supraspinous and interspinous ligaments and the facet capsule, may have reduced the likelihood of iatrogenic instability while at the same time achieving symptom control. This may be a reasonable option for select patient symptoms confined to lumbosacral radiculopathy.

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Christoph P. Hofstetter and Michael Y. Wang