"Minimally invasive" lumbar spine surgery: a critical review
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Minimal-access technology has evolved rapidly with "tubular" or "percutaneous" approaches for decompression and stabilization in the lumbar spine. Potential benefits (smaller scars, diminished local pain, reduced blood loss, reduced postoperative wound pain, shorter hospital stays) have to be weighed against possible drawbacks (reduced orientation, steep learning curve, increased radiation exposure, dependency on technology, cost). While non-comparative case series are often rather enthusiastic, comparative studies and particularly RCTs are scarce and might convey a more realistic appreciation.
A MEDLINE search via PubMed was performed to find all English-language studies comparing "open" or "traditional" or "conventional" with "minimally invasive" or "percutaneous" or "tubular" approaches in degenerative lumbar spine surgery.
Only nine comparative studies could be retrieved altogether. No clear benefit could be found for minimally invasive procedures in lumbar disc herniation, TLIF, or PLIF. There seems to be a slight advantage in terms of hardware safety in open procedures.
This review, based solely on the very limited number of available comparative studies, shows no relevant benefit from minimally invasive techniques, and a tendency for more safety in open procedures in lumbar disc herniation, TLIF and PLIF.
KeywordsSpine surgery Lumbar spine Minimally invasive Percutaneous Tubular Review
Visual analogue scale
Estimated blood loss
Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion
Posterior lumbar interbody fusion
Oswestry disability index
Length of stay
Randomized controlled trial
Conflicts of interest