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Surg Neurol. 2005 May;63(5):403-8; discussion 408-9.

Transthoracic discectomy without interbody fusion.

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Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Saint Marys Hospital, Rochester, MN 55902, USA.



Transthoracic discectomy is an established surgical procedure for the treatment of thoracic disk disease. Most authors advocate interbody fusion after transthoracic discectomy. The purpose of this study was to determine if there were any adverse consequences in foregoing interbody fusion after transthoracic discectomy.


Eighteen consecutive patients underwent transthoracic discectomy without fusion between 1996 and 2002 at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN). There were 11 women and 7 men with the mean age of 54 years (range, 28-84 years). Surgical indications were radiculopathy in 1 patient and myelopathy in 17. Follow-up data were obtained from the clinic visits and telephone surveys. We used the available pre- and postoperative radiographs for 16 patients at the last follow-up to establish the incidence of postoperative kyphosis and/or scoliosis at the operated level. Mean duration of the radiographic follow-up was 22 +/- 24 (SD) months.


None of the patients reported the onset of a new axial spine pain postoperatively. No patient developed segmental kyphosis or scoliosis at the operated level during the follow-up period. Fifteen of 18 (83%) patients had significant improvement in their neurological symptoms and signs. Two patients remained unchanged. An 83-year-old patient had a slight worsening of her gait after surgery. Specifically, the only 3 nonambulatory patients regained ambulation after discectomy. There were 4 complications: 1 wound infection, 1 pleural effusion requiring pleurodesis, 1 cerebrospinal fluid leak, and 1 case of disabling intercostal neuralgia.


These results indicate that interbody fusion may not be necessary for selected patients undergoing transthoracic discectomy. Further long-term follow-up is needed to evaluate the development of late spinal instability and resultant deformity after this procedure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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