Object: Far-lateral (extraforaminal) and foraminal disc herniations comprise up to 11% of all herniated intervertebral discs. Operative management can be technically difficult, and the optimum surgical treatment remains controversial. Accessing these lateral disc herniations endoscopically via a percutaneous transforaminal approach offers several theoretical advantages over the more traditional procedures. The object of this study was to assess the safety and efficacy of treating patients with far-lateral and foraminal disc herniations via a percutaneous transforaminal endoscopic approach.
Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed of 47 consecutive patients who underwent surgery via this approach. All procedures were performed after induction of a local anesthetic on an outpatient basis. Outcome was measured with Macnab criteria and by determining a patient's return-to-work status. The median follow-up period was 18 months (range 4-51 months). Excellent or good outcome was obtained in 40 (85%) of 47 patients. Of the 38 patients working before the onset of symptoms, 34 (90%) returned to work. Five patients (11%) experienced poor outcomes and subsequently underwent open procedures at the same level. Of the 10 recipients of Workers' Compensation, Macnab criteria indicated a significantly worse outcome (70% excellent or good), but an excellent return-to-work status was maintained (90%). There were no complications.
Conclusions: Transforaminal percutaneous endoscopic discectomy is safe and efficacious in the treatment of far-lateral and foraminal disc herniations.