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Int Orthop. 2013 Aug;37(8):1507-10. doi: 10.1007/s00264-013-1905-6. Epub 2013 May 9.

Percutaneous endoscopic transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion: is it worth it?

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Department of Orthopaedics, Hôpital Saint Antoine, Paris, France.



Interbody spine fusion with cages was first described by Bagby and has been performed for a long time now in a variety of different conditions. We developed a percutaneous endoscopic lumbar fusion technique based on the principles of Kambin and an original titanium cage.


From 2004 to 2010, 57 patients were operated on, 17 patients were male with a mean age of 50.29 years (range 34-71 years) and 40 were female with a mean age of 57.42 years (29-90 years). Nineteen patients had a previous operation. Patients were operated on under local anaesthesia in the prone position under image intensifier and a transforaminal percutaneous endoscopic approach.


Fifty cases had a bilateral cage through a bilateral endoscopic approach, and seven cases had a unilateral endoscopic approach only; of those, three cases had only one cage. Eleven patients had a contemporary posterior plate fixation at the same time of the endoscopic cage fusion. Eight patients had a postoperative radicular pain with paresthesias. Asymptomatic migration of the cages occurred in two cases and symptomatic migration requiring a conventional secondary reoperation in 13 cases after a mean delay of eight months (range three to 36 months). The mean ODI after two years or more was 34.3 % (initial ODI 69.4 %).


The technique was introduced in our practice to take care of difficult or grave co-morbidity patients, and some patients had excellent lasting results following a very short procedure and hospital stay. However, given the 36 % complication rate in this series, we do not recommend it unless decisive technical improvements are made.

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