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Surg Technol Int. 2011 Dec;21:284-98.

Full-endoscopic Operations of the Spine in Disk Herniations and Spinal Stenosis.

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Head of the Department of Spine Surgery and Pain Therapy, Center for Orthopedics and Traumatology, St. Anna Hospital Herne, Herne, Germany.


Degenerative constrictions of the spinal canal with compression of neural elements arise as a result of bony, disk, capsular, or ligament structures. The most frequent causes are disk herniations and spinal stenoses. The lumbar and cervical spine is the most prominent cause. After conservative treatments have been exhausted, surgical intervention may be necessary. Today, microsurgical, microscopically assisted decompression is regarded as the standard procedure for disk herniation and spinal stenosis in the lumbar region, while in the cervical spine microsurgical, microscopically assisted anterior decompression and fusion are standard. Both procedures demonstrate good clinical results but present problems associated with the operation. Decompressions in the area of the spine must be carried out under continuous visualization and must entail the possibility of adequate bone resection. Taking this into account, completely new endoscopes and instrument sets were developed for full-endoscopic operations in tandem with the development of the lateral transforaminal and interlaminar approaches for the lumbar spine and the posterior and contralateral anterior approaches for the cervical spine. The possibilities and results of comparable, established standard procedures were used as a benchmark in the course of clinical validation. The development of surgically created approaches and the new rod lens endoscopes combined with appropriate instrument sets have laid the technical foundations for full-endoscopic operation in the lumbar spine on all primary and recurrent disk herniations inside and outside the spinal canal and on spinal stenoses. This development has also permitted resection of soft disk herniations in the cervical spine. The use of the relevant approaches depends on anatomical and pathological inclusion and exclusion criteria. The clinical results of standard procedures are achieved, which must be regarded as a minimum criterion for the introduction of new technologies. On the basis of EBM criteria, it can be established that using the full-endoscopic techniques developed, adequate decompression is achieved in the defined indications with reduced traumatization, improved visibility conditions, and positive cost benefits. Today, full-endoscopic operations may be regarded as an expansion and alternative within the overall concept of spinal surgery.


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