Laser Discectomy: Comparison of Systems

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Percutaneous methods of lumbar disc removal have galned wide popularity since the introduction of the automated suction device. Newer methods to enter this field include the Nd:YAG and Ho:YAG lasers, To date, no experimental model exists to compare the efficacy of disc removal of these devices. An in vitro disc elastance (pressure/volume) model was designed that accurately reflects the mass of dry disc removed after any type of discectomy procedure. The experimental design consists of an infusion pump compressing a static column of air in line with the disc through a 12− gauge needle. Both mechanical and laser devices exhibited a reproducible treatment plateau, beyond which no disc removal was effected. Total energy, as opposed to power, was found to be the main determinant of the extent of disc removal during laser discesctomy. Finally, in the experimental model of juvenile swine the eutomated suction device exhibited superior disc removal compared to the two lasers, but the clinical applicability of this is debatable. Disc space elastance offers a rapid and reproducible method to quantitate the extent of disc removal after intradiscal treatment methods and if employed in human cadaver spines may minimize the need for clinical trials to compare different devices and techniques.

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