In-vivo Endoscopic Visualization of Patho-anatomy in Symptomatic Degenerative Conditions of the Lumbar Spine II: Intradiscal, Foraminal, and Central Canal Decompression

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Published in Surgical Technology International (21st Anniversary Edition) - covering the latest developments in operative techniques and technologies.


The patho-anatomy in an aging spine is partly defined by Rauschning's anatomic cryosections. Theories of pain generation and principles of minimally invasive spine surgery are suggested by close examination of these specimens. If the visualized patho-anatomy can be studied in vivo in a partially sedated patient by spinal probing, spinal pain can be better understood, and rational endoscopic treatment options may then evolve.

A 1997 IRB-approved study provided evidence that endoscopic transforaminal surgery was feasible for the treatment of a wide spectrum of degenerative conditions in the lumbar spine. The technique incorporated evocative chromo-discography to correlate reproduction of pain with in-vivo probing of patho-anatomy. Laser and radiofrequency ablation augmented mechanical decompression to obtain pain relief.

Endoscopic visualization of patho-anatomy ranging from annular tears to spondylolisthesis and stenosis provided clinical evidence that foraminal decompression, ablation, and irrigation could effectively treat these visualized painful conditions with minimal morbidity. This resulted in a better understanding of the pain generators in the lumbar spine, opening up options for surgical pain management.

The procedure does not burn any bridges for more traditional surgical techniques. The learning curve may be steep for some and long for others, but results are very good, concomitant with each individual surgeon overcoming his personal learning curve.

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