Patients with symptomatic herniated thoracic discs may require operation for intractable radiculopathy or functionally disabling myelopathy. In the past, laminectomy was the procedure of choice for the treatment of thoracic herniations, but it was found that the approach was associated with an unacceptably high rate of neurological morbidity. Several strategies have been developed to excise the disc without manipulating the spinal cord. The focus of this paper is the transpedicular approach.
The author retrospectively reviewed the cases of 20 consecutive patients presenting with herniated thoracic discs in whom surgery was performed via a transpedicular approach. Fourteen patients presented with acute myelopathy and six with radiculopathy. Of those with myelopathy six of six regained ambulation and six of seven regained normal bladder function. No patient with myelopathy experienced neurological worsening. In four patients presenting with radiculopathy postoperative pain resolved, and in two it remained unchanged. Three minor complications (15%) occurred. No patient suffered postoperative spinal instability–related pain or delayed kyphosis.
As experience accumulates in the use of multiple approaches for the treatment of thoracic disc herniations, the role of each is becoming more clearly defined. The transpedicular approach is most applicable to lateral or centrolateral calcified or soft discs. The more anterior (transthoracic or thoracoscopic) and lateral (costotransversectomy or lateral extracavitary) approaches may be more useful for excision of central calcified discs.