Object: Surgical decompression is the recommended treatment in patients with moderate to severe degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (DLSS) in whom symptoms do not respond to conservative therapy. Multilevel disease, poor patient health, and advanced age are generally considered predictors of a poor outcome after surgery, essentially because of a surgical technique that has always been considered invasive and prone to causing postoperative instability. The authors present a minimally invasive surgical technique performed using a unilateral approach for lumbar decompression.
Methods: A retrospective study was conducted of data obtained in a consecutive series of 473 patients treated with unilateral microdecompression for DLSS over a 5-year period (2000-2004). Clinical outcome was measured using the Prolo Economic and Functional Scale and the visual analog scale (VAS). Radiological follow-up included dynamic x-ray films of the lumbar spine and, in some cases, computed tomography scans.
Results: Follow-up was completed in 374 (79.1%) of 473 patients--183 men and 191 women. A total of 520 levels were decompressed: 285 patients (76.2%) presented with single-level stenosis, 86 (22.9%) with two-level stenosis, and three (0.9%) with three-level stenosis. Three hundred twenty-nine patients (87.9%) experienced a clinical benefit, which was defined as neurological improvement in VAS and Prolo Scale scores. Only three patients (0.8%) reported suffering segmental instability at a treated level, but none required surgical stabilization, and all were successfully treated conservatively.
Conclusions: Evaluation of the results indicates that unilateral microdecompression of the lumbar spine offers a significant improvement for patients with DLSS, with a lower rate of complications.