The use of minimally invasive noninstrumented fusions has increased as thoracoscopic approaches to the spine have evolved. The addition of instrumentation is infrequent, in part because of the lack of a minimally invasive implant system. The authors describe a technique for thoracoscopic plating after discectomy and report early clinical outcomes.
After a standard endoscopic discectomy and partial corpectomy and before exposure of the ventral thecal sac, the authors implanted a polyaxial screw and clamping element under fluoroscopic guidance. Reconstruction involves placement of autograft in the defect and subsequent placement of the remainder of the screw/plate construct with 2 screws per vertebral level.
Twenty-five patients underwent thoracoscopic and thoracoscopy-assisted discectomies and fusion in which the aforementioned plate system was used. Of 19 patients presenting with pain, 10 had 6-month clinical follow-up with a greater than 50% reduction in visual analog scale score, which continued to improve up to 2 years postoperatively. There were 3 cases of pneumonia, 3 CSF leaks, 1 chyle leak, and 1 death due to a massive pulmonary embolus on the 1st postoperative day.
The authors conclude that thoracoscopic discectomy and plate-instrumented fusion can be achieved with acceptable results and morbidity. Further studies should evaluate the role of instrumented fusions after thoracoscopic discectomy in larger groups of patients and during a longer follow-up period.