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Michael F. Shriver, Jack J. Xie, Erik Y. Tye, Benjamin P. Rosenbaum, Varun R. Kshettry, Edward C. Benzel and Thomas E. Mroz


Lumbar microdiscectomy and its various minimally invasive surgical techniques are seeing increasing popularity, but a systematic review of their associated complications has yet to be performed. The authors sought to identify all prospective clinical studies reporting complications associated with lumbar open microdiscectomy, microendoscopic discectomy (MED), and percutaneous microdiscectomy.


The authors conducted MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, and Embase database searches for randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies reporting complications associated with open, microendoscopic, or percutaneous lumbar microdiscectomy. Studies with fewer than 10 patients and published before 1990 were excluded. Overall and interstudy median complication rates were calculated for each surgical technique. The authors also performed a meta-analysis of the reported complications to assess statistical significance across the various surgical techniques.


Of 9504 articles retrieved from the databases, 42 met inclusion criteria. Most studies screened were retrospective case series, limiting the number of studies that could be included. A total of 9 complication types were identified in the included studies, and these were analyzed across each of the surgical techniques. The rates of any complication across the included studies were 12.5%, 13.3%, and 10.8% for open, MED, and percutaneous microdiscectomy, respectively. New or worsening neurological deficit arose in 1.3%, 3.0%, and 1.6% of patients, while direct nerve root injury occurred at rates of 2.6%, 0.9%, and 1.1%, respectively. Hematoma was reported at rates of 0.5%, 1.2%, and 0.6%, respectively. Wound complications (infection, dehiscence, orseroma) occurred at rates of 2.1%, 1.2%, and 0.5%, respectively. The rates of recurrent disc complications were 4.4%, 3.1%, and 3.9%, while reoperation was indicated in 7.1%, 3.7%, and 10.2% of operations, respectively. Meta-analysis calculations revealed a statistically significant higher rate of intraoperative nerve root injury following percutaneous procedures relative to MED. No other significant differences were found.


This review highlights complication rates among various microdiscectomy techniques, which likely reflect real-world practice and conceptualization of complications among physicians. This investigation sets the framework for further discussions regarding microdiscectomy options and their associated complications during the informed consent process.