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Neurosurg Focus. 2011 Apr;30(4):E15. doi: 10.3171/2011.1.FOCUS10309.

Thoracoscopic discectomy and instrumented fusion using a minimally invasive plate system: surgical technique and early clinical outcome.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Clinical Neurosciences Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84132, USA.



The use of minimally invasive noninstrumented fusions has increased as thoracoscopic approaches to the spine have evolved. The addition of instrumentation is infrequent, in part because of the lack of a minimally invasive implant system. The authors describe a technique for thoracoscopic plating after discectomy and report early clinical outcomes.


After a standard endoscopic discectomy and partial corpectomy and before exposure of the ventral thecal sac, the authors implanted a polyaxial screw and clamping element under fluoroscopic guidance. Reconstruction involves placement of autograft in the defect and subsequent placement of the remainder of the screw/plate construct with 2 screws per vertebral level.


Twenty-five patients underwent thoracoscopic and thoracoscopy-assisted discectomies and fusion in which the aforementioned plate system was used. Of 19 patients presenting with pain, 10 had 6-month clinical follow-up with a greater than 50% reduction in visual analog scale score, which continued to improve up to 2 years postoperatively. There were 3 cases of pneumonia, 3 CSF leaks, 1 chyle leak, and 1 death due to a massive pulmonary embolus on the 1st postoperative day.


The authors conclude that thoracoscopic discectomy and plate-instrumented fusion can be achieved with acceptable results and morbidity. Further studies should evaluate the role of instrumented fusions after thoracoscopic discectomy in larger groups of patients and during a longer follow-up period.

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