Current Issue - July/August 2017 - Vol 20 Issue 5


  1. 2017;20;E647-E651Transforaminal Percutaneous Endoscopic Discectomy and Foraminoplasty after Lumbar Spinal Fusion Surgery
    Retrospective Study
    Jian-Jun Wu, MD, Hui-Zhen Chen, MD, and Changkun Zheng, MD.

BACKGROUND: The most common causes of pain following lumbar spinal fusions are residual herniation, or foraminal fibrosis and foraminal stenosis that is ignored, untreated, or undertreated. The original surgeon may advise his patient that nothing more can be done in his opinion that the nerve was visually decompressed by the original surgery. Post-operative imaging or electrophysiological assessment may be inadequate to explain all the reasons for residual or recurrent symptoms. Treatment of failed lumbar spinal fusions by repeat traditional open revision surgery usually incorporates more extensive decompression causing increased instability and back pain. The authors, having limited their practice to endoscopic surgery over the last 10 years, report on their experience gained during that period to relieve pain by transforaminal percutaneous endoscopic revision of lumbar spinal fusions.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of transforaminal percutaneous endoscopic discectomy and foraminoplasty in patients with pain after lumbar spinal fusion.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective study.

SETTING: Inpatient surgery center.

METHODS: Sixteen consecutive patients with pain after lumbar spinal fusions presenting with back and leg pain that had supporting imaging diagnosis of foraminal stenosis and/or residual/recurrent disc herniation, or whose pain complaint was supported by relief from diagnostic and therapeutic injections, were offered percutaneous transforaminal endoscopic discectomy and foraminoplasty over a repeat open procedure. Each patient sought consultation following a transient successful, partially successful or unsuccessful open lumbar spinal fusions treatment for disc herniation or spinal stenosis. Endoscopic foraminoplasty was also performed to either decompress the bony foramen in the case of foraminal stenosis, or to allow for endoscopic visual examination of the affected traversing and exiting nerve roots in the axilla. The average follow-up time was 30.3 months, minimum 12 months. Outcome data at each visit included MacNab criteria, visual analog scale (VAS), and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI).

RESULTS: The average leg VAS improved from 9.1 ± 2.0 to 2.0 ± 0.8 (P < 0.005). Ten patients had excellent outcomes, 5 had good outcomes, one had a fair outcome, and none had poor outcomes, according to the MacNab criteria. Fifteen of 16 patients had excellent or good outcomes, for an overall success rate of 93.7%. No patients required reoperation. There were no incidental durotomies, infections, vascular, or visceral injuries. There was one complication, a case of leg numbness caused by dorsal root ganglion injury. The numbness improved after 2 weeks. After 3 months, physical exam showed that the total area of numbness in the legs had decreased. At last follow-up, the patient had no pain, and only a few areas with numbness remained that did not affect the patient’s activities of daily living. The patient was relieved to be able to avoid open decompression.

LIMITATIONS: This is a retrospective study.

CONCLUSIONS: The transforaminal endoscopic approach is effective for patients with back or leg pain after lumbar spinal fusions due to residual/recurrent nucleus pulposus and foraminal stenosis. Failed initial index surgery may involve failure to recognize patho-anatomy in the axilla of the foramen housing the traversing and the exiting nerve. The transforaminal endoscopic approach effectively decompresses the foramen and does not further destabilize the spine needing stabilization. It also avoids going through the previous surgical site.

KEY WORDS: Full-endoscopic, foraminal stenosis, recurrent herniation, surgical treatment, fusion