Ultrafine Flexible Spinal Endoscope (Myeloscope) and Discovery of an Unreported Subarachnoid Lesion

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Abstract

Study Design.

Introduction of a new diagnostic procedure and a report on its usefulness.

Objectives.

To introduce a new endoscope (myeloscope) developed for the examination of the spinal canal and to present a previously unreported subarachnoid condition as a cause of paraparesis revealed by it.

Summary of Background Data.

In spite of the availability of advanced imaging technology, there still exists a significant number of patients with spinal diseases in whom a diagnosis cannot be made. Direct visualization of the pathologic area is required in these patients. Recent advances in fiberoptics have made this possible.

Methods.

The endoscope consisted of a fiberscope with an external diameter of 0.5, 0.9, or 1.4 mm. It was inserted into the subarachnoid space in the lumbar spine and carefully advanced cranially. Since 1987, this examination has been performed on 18 patients aged 7 to 69 years who had pain or other neurologic symptoms of unknown origin.

Results.

The surface of the spinal cord, roots, properties of the arachnoid membrane, and small vessels could be observed clearly. The scope could be advanced as far as the upper cervical spine. Cotton-candy-like proliferation of fibrous tissue was identified by myeloscopy in four paraparetic patients who had clinical and radiologic features similar to those of a spinal cord herniation. The fibrous tissue beat on the spinal cord with the pulsation of the spinal fluid. Resection of the fibrous tissue with conventional surgery resulted in neurologic improvement. Complications included one case of meningitis in the early period and five cases of postspinal headache. No nerve injury was apparent.

Conclusions.

Myeloscopy provides detailed information about the subarachnoid space and even reveals dynamic conditions that cannot be identified during open surgery or at autopsy. It will bring new concepts to the diagnosis of spinal diseases.

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