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Curtis A. Dickman

Correction of rigid scoliotic deformities involving the thoracic spine has required that a thoracotomy be performed to obtain anterior release to mobilize the deformity, as well as placement of corrective spinal instrumentation either via a separate posterior or anterior thoracic approach. To the best of the author's knowledge, this is the first published report of a case in which anterior correction of a deformity was achieved endoscopically.

A 27-year-old man presented with a rigid 85° thoracic kyphoscoliotic deformity that had developed over several years. He had previously undergone a C7-T12 laminectomy to decompress the spinal cord from a lipoma. Using thoracoscopic techniques, the author performed an anterior release and interbody fusion. Endoscopically, an anterior screw/rod system applied from T-5 to T-9 corrected the deformity to 55°.

There were no surgery-related complications. At follow-up examiniation 1.5 years after surgery, the patient had developed a solid fusion and the correction was maintained at an angle of 58°.

It is feasible to use thoracoscopic techniques to perform an anterior release and to apply anterior corrective spinal instrumentation to treat thoracic scoliotic deformities, thereby avoiding the need for an open posterior approach in which instrumentation is placed.

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Curtis A. Dickman

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Curtis A. Dickman and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

A 6-cm-diameter schwannoma located at T-2 was resected completely by using transthoracic microsurgical endoscopy. The partially cystic tumor widened the neural foramen and extended into the apex of the right thoracic cavity but did not extend intradurally. The tumor was accessed by means of three 15-mm incisions made in the intercostal spaces. The operative blood loss was only 200 ml, and there were no complications. The patient was discharged on the 2nd postoperative day and returned to full activity 1 week after surgery.

Thoracoscopy provides an excellent alternative to thoracotomy for peripheral thoracic nerve sheath tumors that originate within the neural foramen or more distally along the intercostal nerves within the thorax. An anterior approach is required for intrathoracic tumors but is not suited for intradural tumors. An open posterior or posterolateral approach to the thoracic spine is required for intradural tumors to allow the dura to be closed adequately.

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Patrick P. Han and Curtis A. Dickman

Five patients who harbored large intrathoracic paraspinal neurogenic tumors were treated using thoracoscopic techniques to achieve gross-total tumor resection. All tumors were entirely intrathoracic except one that had an intraspinal extension, and all tumors were treated entirely thoracoscopically except for this one. Gross-total resection was achieved in all cases. The mean clinical follow-up period was 6.8 months. Postoperatively, one patient developed Horner's syndrome. The only other complication was transient intercostal neuralgia (two patients), which has resolved in both patient. No evidence of disease was demonstrated clinically or on follow-up imaging in any patient. Thoracoscopy is an excellent modality with which to treat these tumors, in part because it is associated with significantly less morbidity than open thoracotomy and costotransversectomy procedures. Endoscopic transthoracic approaches reduce the approach-related soft-tissue morbidity by preserving the normal tissues of the chest wall, avoiding rib retraction and muscle transection, reducing postoperative pain, and facilitating recovery. This technique has become the senior author's (C.A.D.'s) surgical approach of choice for the removal of intrathoracic benign paraspinal neurogenic tumors. It has also become the preferred method by which to perform thoracic sympathectomy and remove central, herniated thoracic discs.

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Curtis A. Dickman and Camilla A. Mican

A video-assisted thoracoscopic microsurgical approach was performed to treat a myelopathic patient with a severe kyphotic deformity caused by chronic nonunion of compression fractures of T7-9 vertebrae. The kyphotic deformity was treated by combined operative procedures. First, an anterior release was performed using a thoracoscopic technique, sectioning the anterior longitudinal ligament and performing multilevel thoracic discectomies. Next, a posterior reduction and internal fixation of the deformity was achieved using hook-rod instrumentation. Finally, bone graft harvested during the posterior approach was used for interbody fusion via a thoracoscopic approach.

Microsurgical thoracoscopic techniques potentially can be used in a variety of spinal surgeries. Compared to transthoracic and posterolateral approaches, this technique presents distinct advantages to treatment of anterior spinal pathology. The small incisions made into the intercostal spaces without retracting the ribs may reduce postoperative pain, shorten the length of hospitalization, and allow early return to activity.

The operative techniques used in this case are described in detail. This report demonstrates that thoracoscopic discectomies and interbody fusion are technically feasible and can be effectively performed with acceptable results.

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Curtis A. Dickman and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

✓ A 6-cm-diameter schwannoma located at T-2 was resected completely by using transthoracic microsurgical endoscopy. The partially cystic tumor widened the neural foramen and extended into the apex of the right thoracic cavity but did not extend intradurally. The tumor was accessed by means of three 15-mm incisions made in the intercostal spaces. The operative blood loss was only 200 ml, and there were no complications. The patient was discharged on the 2nd postoperative day and returned to full activity 1 week after surgery.

Thoracoscopy provides an excellent alternative to thoracotomy for peripheral thoracic nerve sheath tumors that originate within the neural foramen or more distally along the intercostal nerves within the thorax. An anterior approach is required for intrathoracic tumors but is not suited for intradural tumors. An open posterior or posterolateral approach to the thoracic spine is required for intradural tumors to allow the dura to be closed adequately.

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Curtis A. Dickman and Camilla A. Mican

✓ A video-assisted thoracoscopic microsurgical approach was performed to treat a myelopathic patient with a severe kyphotic deformity caused by chronic nonunion of compression fractures of the T7–9 vertebrae. The kyphotic deformity was treated by combined operative procedures. First, an anterior release was performed using a thoracoscopic technique, sectioning the anterior longitudinal ligament and performing multilevel thoracic discectomies. Next, a posterior reduction and internal fixation of the deformity was achieved using hook-rod instrumentation. Finally, bone graft harvested during the posterior approach was used for interbody fusion via a thoracoscopic approach.

Microsurgical thoracoscopic techniques potentially can be used in a variety of spinal surgeries. Compared to transthoracic and posterolateral approaches, this technique presents distinct advantages to treatment of anterior spinal pathology. The small incisions made into the intercostal spaces without retracting the ribs may reduce postoperative pain, shorten the length of hospitalization, and allow early return to activity.

The operative techniques used in this case are described in detail. This report demonstrates that thoracoscopic discectomies and interbody fusion are technically feasible and can be effectively performed with acceptable results.

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Hakan Bozkus and Curtis A. Dickman

✓ Surgical stabilization of high-grade lumbosacral spondylolisthesis is clinically challenging, and the success of deformity reduction and fusion varies. The authors describe a patient with Grade III spondylolisthesis at L5—S1. Partial reduction was achieved and fusion involved pedicle screw fixation and a posterior transvertebral interbody cage. This patient had developed progressive spondylolisthesis after decompression and posterolateral fusion for L5—S1 spondylolisthesis failed. Clinical and early radiographic results were excellent. Transsacral cage fixation can be considered a viable option to buttress the region in which high-grade L5—S1 spondylolisthesis has been reduced. The cage provides substrate for interbody arthrodesis and acts as a biomechanical stabilizer that helps prevent pedicle screw failure.

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Patrick P. Han and Curtis A. Dickman

Object. The authors describe the treatment and results of thoracoscopic resection performed in patients with neurogenic tumors.

Methods. Seven patients with large intrathoracic paraspinal neurogenic tumors underwent a thoracoscopic procedure to achieve gross-total resection. All tumors were entirely intrathoracic and treated thoracoscopically except in one patient whose tumor had an intraspinal extension. Gross-total resection was achieved in all cases. Postoperatively, one patient developed Horner syndrome. The only other complication, transient intercostal neuralgia, resolved in all patients. Clinical examination and magnetic resonance imaging follow-up examination in all patients demonstrated no evidence of recurrent disease (mean follow up 12.5 months).

Conclusions. Endoscopic transthoracic approaches can reduce approach-related soft-tissue morbidity and facilitate a patient's recovery by preserving the normal tissues of the chest wall, by avoiding rib retraction and muscle transection, and by reducing postoperative pain.

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Daniel Rosenthal and Curtis A. Dickman

Object. The authors began using thoracoscopy to treat pathological conditions of the spine in 1992. In this study they delineate their clinical experience in which this procedure was used to resect herniated thoracic discs.

Methods. Fifty-five patients underwent thoracoscopy for the resection of herniated thoracic discs. Thirty-six patients presented with myelopathies and 19 with incapacitating thoracic radicular pain. Forty-three patients underwent a single-level, 11 a two-level, and one a three-level discectomy. The mean operative time for thoracoscopic microdiscectomy was 3 hours and 25 minutes (range 80–542 minutes) and the mean blood loss was 327 ml (range 124–1500 ml). Compared with thoracotomy, which was performed in 18 patients, thoracoscopy was associated with a mean of 1 hour less operative time and less than one-half of the blood loss, duration of chest tube drainage, usage of pain medication, and length of hospitalization. Compared with costotransversectomy, which was performed in 15 patients, thoracoscopy permitted more complete resection of calcified and midline thoracic discs because it provided a direct view of the entire anterior surface of the dura. Thoracotomy was associated with a significantly greater incidence of prolonged, disabling intercostal neuralgia compared with the mild transient episodes of intercostal neuralgia associated with thoracoscopy (50% compared with 16%). Thoracotomy also was associated with a significantly higher incidence of postoperative atelectasis and pulmonary dysfunction than thoracoscopy (33% compared with 7%). Clinical and neurological outcomes were excellent (mean follow-up period 15 months). Among the 36 myelopathic patients, 22 completely recovered neurologically; five improved functionally but had some residual myelopathic symptoms; and nine stabilized. Among the 19 patients with isolated thoracic radiculopathies, 15 recovered completely and four improved moderately; no patient had worsened radicular pain.

Conclusions. Thoracoscopic microdiscectomy is a reliable surgical technique that can be performed safely with excellent clinical and neurological results.