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Sean S. Armin, Langston T. Holly and Larry T. Khoo

For decades, lumbar disc herniation and lumbar stenosis have been treated surgically via traditional open techniques. With recent emphasis on minimally invasive approaches in spine surgery, a number of new techniques has been introduced that are aimed at treating these 2 common pathological conditions. Currently the most widely used and efficacious minimally invasive technique for treating these disorders is direct decompression with minimally invasive surgery. Due to the scarcity of large randomized studies, however, it is difficult to compare the effectiveness and possible superiority of this technique with traditional decompression. Further studies are needed to evaluate this issue.

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Larry T. Khoo, Zachary A. Smith, Farbod Asgarzadie, Yorgios Barlas, Sean S. Armin, Vartan Tashjian and Baron Zarate

Object

Open transthoracic approaches, considered the standard in treating thoracic disc herniation (TDH), are associated with significant comorbidities. The authors describe a minimally invasive lateral extracavitary tubular approach for discectomy and fusion (MIECTDF) to treat TDH.

Methods

In 13 patients (5 men, 8 women; mean age 51.8 years) with myelopathy and 15 noncalcified TDHs, the authors achieved a far-lateral trajectory by dilating percutaneously to a 20-mm working portal docked at the transverse process–facet junction, which then provided a corridor for a near-total discectomy, bilateral laminotomies, and interbody arthrodesis requiring minimal cord retraction. A cohort of 11 demographically comparable patients treated via transthoracic approaches was used as control.

Results

Preoperative Frankel grades were B in 1 patient, C in 4, D in 5, and E in 3, whereas at mean of 10 months, 11 had Grade E function and 2 had Grade D function. Mean surgical metrics were operating room time 93.75 minutes, blood loss 33 ml, and hospital stay 3.1 days. Complications included 4 transient paresthesias, 1 CSF leak, 1 abdominal wall weakness, and 3 nonwound infections. One-year follow-up MR imaging revealed full decompression in all cases and no cage migration. Mean visual analog scales scores preoperative, at 6 weeks, 3 months, and 1 year were 5.6, 4.5, 3.2, and 1.2, respectively. No differences existed in preoperative clinical and radiographic profile of the study and control groups. Compared with controls, the MIECTDF group achieved superior scores in all metrics (p < 0.01) except for equivalent 1-year neurological outcomes.

Conclusions

Compared with transthoracic procedures, MIECTDF effectively decompressed the spinal canal, yielding identical 1-year radiographic and clinical outcomes to those seen in controls, while producing superior clinical scores in the interim. Thus, MIECTDF is the authors' treatment of choice for TDH.