A Minimally Invasive Transmuscular Approach to Far-lateral L5-S1 Level Disc Herniations: A Prospective Study

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BackgroundAmong all lumbar disc herniations, L5-S1 far-lateral disc herniations are rare entities. Besides, surgical approach may be difficult because of the very narrow passage at this level. For these 2 reasons, most spine surgeons are not experienced in herniations at this level. According to new microanatomic studies, previous lateral approaches at this level often do not allow access to the neuroforamen without partial or total destruction of the L5-S1 facet joint. To preserve the facet joint, an approach was developed.PurposeTo assess the efficacy of a surgical technique that is a minimally invasive intermuscular approach (MIIMA) for decompression of L5-S1 far-lateral level disc herniation (FLLDH).Study DesignWe present a prospective clinical study analysis of 14 patients with L5-S1 far-lateral disc herniations in a period between 2000 and 2004, treated with microsurgical technique.MethodsAn imaging study revealed consistency with the patient's clinical presentation. In our department, a total of 580 patients underwent discectomy between 2000 and 2004 for lumbar disc herniation.ResultTwenty-eight patients had foraminal or extraforaminal herniations (4.8%). Fourteen patients had FLLDH at the L4-L5 level (2.4%), whereas the other 14 were cases of FLLDH at the L5-S1 level (2.4%). One patient had FLLDH at both L5-S1 and L4-L5 levels (7.1%). The mean age of patients was 53.6 years, and the male:female ratio was approximately 5:9. All patients failed to recover after at least 6 weeks of conservative therapy. The mean duration of symptoms until the time of surgery was 7.2 months. Using this MIIMA technique, the authors removed the herniated discs compressing the (L5) nerve roots. Clinical outcome was measured using the visual analog scale. Every patient was discharged within 24 hours. Satisfactory (excellent or good) results were demonstrated in 13 patients (92.9%), because, except for 1 (7.1) permanent dysesthesia case, 4 cases (21.3%) were temporary dysesthesia. Postoperatively all patients reported excellent relief of their sciatic pains, and there were no technique-associated complications. No recurrence was observed during the follow-up period ranging from 10 to 60 months (mean, 29 mo). This is one of the major complications of any approach to a far-lateral disc.ConclusionsThe authors describe a MIIMA for excising herniated discs that is applicable to all types of far-lateral lumbar herniations. Postoperative dysesthesia is the most important complication and may persist as it did in our cases. Consequently, manipulation of the ganglion should be avoided at all costs, if possible. The MIIMA procedure provides a simple alternative for treating lumbar foraminal or lateral exit zone herniated discs in selected cases. This approach is effective, allowing the preservation of the L5-S1 facet joint, saving the facet joint, preventing postoperative instability, and offering a direct view of the L5-S1 neuroforamen.

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