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Introduction: The history and development of endoscopic spine surgery (PELD) in China is reviewed. Its significance and effect is predicted to have great implications for advancing spine care in China’s working and aging population. Percutaneous spine technology was introduced simultaneously from Japan and the United states by Hijikata and Kambin in the early 1980s. It was called Arthroscopic Microdiscectomy (AMD). The access portal was called “Kambin’s Triangle, with the discectomy technique through a “safe” puncture portal through an anatomical triangular zone in the foramen bordered by the facet and foraminal ligament dorsally, the exiting nerve ventrally, and the endplate of the caudal margin of the triangle.
Method: An expanded indication for the transforaminal Kambin technique was introduced to China by Anthony Yeung in 1998, and its evolution and contribution to modern minimally invasive spine care, called the Yeung Endoscopic Spine System (YESSTM) technique, is reviewed. The percutaneous technique has been adopted by surgeons as well as non-surgeons who also undergo surgical training in their rehabilitation programs who integrate the technique through their various affiliations in China for painful degenerative conditions of the spine.
Results: The efficacy of the endoscopic technique has evolved significantly since Kambin, with additional contributions by Chinese surgeons and key opinion leaders of surgical and non-surgical Chinese associations that have co-existed, but are focused on providing treatment options for the Chinese population for centuries. Western Medicine has provided great influence on Chinese medicine, but a significant percentage of the Chinese population still cling to traditional treatment, embracing both Old and New methods. With respect to modern surgical techniques, surgeons and no surgeons are cooperative, and focus on results while working together. They recognize that with endoscopic spine surgery, it is important to maintain a success rate comparable to traditional western open surgery with less surgical morbidity utilizing the endoscope. Peer reviewed papers are emerging from China, using the EBM guidelines of Western Journals.
Conclusion: A rapidly increasing number of surgeries along with improving results will continue to drive this minimally invasive surgical method to China that bridges the gap between non-surgical pain management, physical medicine, and surgical intervention that focuses on the patho-anatomy and patho-physiology of spinal conditions of pain. This will be known as “surgical pain management, a term coined by Dr Anthony Yeung. Future developments will continue to drive the adoption of endoscopic surgery as a significant advancement for Chinese medicine and surgery.