Author(s): Postacchini F, Postacchini R
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Abstract Removal of a herniated disc with the use of the operative microscope was first performed by Yasargil (Adv Neurosurg. 4:81-2, 1977) in 1977. However, it began to be used more and more only in the late 1980s (McCulloch JA (1989) Principles of microsurgery for lumbar disc disease. Raven Press, New York). In the 1990s, many spinal surgeons abandoned conventional discectomy with naked-eye to pass to the routine practice of microdiscectomy. The merits of this technique are that it allows every type of disc herniation to be excised through a short approach to skin, fascia and muscles as well as a limited laminoarthrectomy. For these reasons, it has been, and still is, considered the "gold standard" of surgical treatment for lumbar disc herniation, and the method used by the vast majority of spinal surgeons. In the 1990s, the advent of MRI and the progressive increase in definition of this modality of imaging, as well as histopathologic and immunochemical studies of disc tissue and the analysis of the results of conservative treatments have considerably contributed to the knowledge of the natural evolution of a herniated disc. It was shown that disc herniation may decrease in size or disappear in a few weeks or months. Since the second half of the 1990s there has been a revival of percutaneous procedures. Some of these are similar to the percutaneous automated nucleotomy; other methods are represented by intradiscal injection of a mixture of "oxygen-ozone" (Alexandre A, Buric J, Paradiso R. et al. (2001) Intradiscal injection of oxygen ozone for the treatment of lumbar disc herniations: result at 5 years. 12th World Congress of Neurosurgery; 284-7), or laserdiscectomy performed under CT scan (Menchetti PPM. (2006) Laser Med Sci. 4:25-7). The really emerging procedure is that using an endoscope inserted into the disc through the intervertebral foramen to visualize the herniation and remove it manually using thin pituitary rongeurs, a radiofrequency probe or both (Chiu JC. (2004) Surg Technol Int. 13:276-86).Microdiscectomy is still the standard method of treatment due to its simplicity, low rate of complications and high percentage of satisfactory results, which exceed 90\% in the largest series. Endoscopic transforaminal discectomy appears to be a reliable method, able to give similar results to microdiscectomy, provided the surgeon is expert enough in the technique, which implies a long learning curve in order to perform the operation effectively, with no complications. All the non-endoscopic percutaneous procedures now available can be used, but the patient must be clearly informed that while the procedure is simple and rapid, at least for the disc L4-L5 and those above (except for laserdiscectomy under CT, that can be easily performed also at L5-S1), their success rate ranges from 60 to 70\% and that, in many cases, pain may decrease slowly and may take even several weeks to disappear.
This article was published in Acta Neurochir Suppl
and referenced in Journal of Spine