The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of performing far-lateral lumbar discectomy by using the microendoscopic discectomy (MED) technique. The authors studied 11 consecutive patients with unilateral, single-level radiculopathy secondary to far-lateral disc herniation. There were eight men and three women, with an average age of 43 years. In all patients magnetic resonance imaging and/or computerized tomography scanning documented far-lateral disc herniations. Six patients experienced motor deficits, nine patients sensory abnormalities, and five depressed reflexes. All patients complained of radicular pain, which failed to improve with conservative care.
After induction of epidural anesthesia, single-level, unilateral percutaneous discectomies were performed using the MED technique. Five discectomies were performed at L3-4 and six at L4-5. There were four contained and seven sequestered disc herniations. All surgeries were performed on an outpatient basis. Follow up ranged from for 12 to 27 months. Improvement was shown in all patients postoperatively. Using modified Macnab criteria to assess results of surgery, there were 10 excellent results and one good result. None of the patients experienced residual motor deficits, four had residual decreased sensation, and one still had some degree of nonradicular pain. There were no complications.
Although various open techniques exist for the treatment of far-lateral disc herniation, MED is unique in that far-lateral pathological entities can be directly visualized and removed via a 15-mm paramedian incision. The percutaneous approach avoids larger, potentially denervating and destabilizing procedures. The need for general anesthesia can be avoided, and surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, thereby reducing hospital cost and length of stay.