Minimally invasive lumbar unilateral tubular laminotomy for bilateral decompression has gradually gained acceptance as a less destabilizing but efficacious and safe alternative to traditional open decompression techniques. The authors have further advanced the principles of minimally invasive surgery (MIS) by utilizing working-channel endoscope–based techniques. Full-endoscopic technique allows for high-resolution off-axis visualization of neural structures within the lateral recess, thereby minimizing the need for facet joint resection. The relative efficacy and safety of MIS and full-endoscopic techniques have not been directly compared.
A retrospective analysis of 95 consecutive patients undergoing either MIS (n = 45) or endoscopic (n = 50) unilateral laminotomies for bilateral decompression in cases of lumbar spinal stenosis was performed. Patient demographics, operative details, clinical outcomes, and complications were reviewed.
The patient cohort consisted of 41 female and 54 male patients whose average age was 62 years. Half of the patients had single-level, one-third had 2-level, and the remaining patients had 3- or 4-level procedures. The surgical time for endoscopic technique was significantly longer per level compared to MIS (161.8 ± 6.8 minutes vs 99.3 ± 4.6 minutes; p < 0.001). Hospital stay for MIS patients was on average 2.4 ± 0.5 days compared to 0.7 ± 0.1 days for endoscopic patients (p = 0.001). At the 1-year follow-up, endoscopic patients had a significantly lower visual analog scale score for leg pain than MIS patients (1.3 ± 0.3 vs 3.0 ± 0.5; p < 0.01). Moreover, the back pain disability index score was significantly lower in the endoscopic cohort than in the MIS cohort (20.7 ± 3.4 vs 35.9 ± 4.1; p < 0.01). Two patients in the MIS group (epidural hematoma) and one patient in the endoscopic group (disc herniation) required a return to the operating room acutely after surgery (< 14 days).
Lumbar endoscopic unilateral laminotomy for bilateral decompression is a safe and effective surgical procedure with favorable complication profile and patient outcomes.