Microendoscopic discectomy (MED) is emerging as a minimally invasive alternative to conventional microsurgical discectomy (MSD). EASYGO! is a new system for spinal endoscopy that claims smooth transition from MSD to MED, with a reduced learning curve period. The aims of this study were to describe the complications that appeared during the learning curve period of MED and to compare their incidence with the rate and type of complications that occurred during a simultaneous non-randomised series of standard MSDs.
Between July 2009 and December 2010, 138 patients underwent scheduled first-time discectomy in our institution, 37 using an MED approach and 101 by a conventional MSD. A MED learning curve was obtained by plotting every case with its respective operative time. Complications, length of hospital stay, need of further surgery and outcome were prospectively recorded in both groups.
The mean operative time was 66 min for the MSD group and 100 min for the MED group, although for the last 14 cases of the latter group the time was reduced. Curve-fitting techniques showed that the inverse equation, ƒ(x) = 122.12/x + 73.05, had the best correlation between case number and operative time. The learning curve was overcome after the 30th case. Complications occurred in 9.8 % of the MSD group and 8.1 % of the MED group (P = 0.49). Average length of hospital stay was 2.36 days for the MED group and 3.36 days for the MSD group (P = 0.01). The procedure successfully relieved patient symptoms in 68.63 % of the MSD group and 89.92 % of the MED group. No revision surgery was required in the MED group, but it was necessary in ten patients of the MSD group.
Between 25 and 30 cases are needed to reach the learning curve’s asymptote of MED. Even during this initial learning period MED is a safe procedure, with comparable results to those obtained with conventional MSD and with a similar complication rate. The key points for reducing intraoperative complications are an adequate expertise in MSD, a precise selection of initial cases, a proper surgical planning and a careful technique, which are mandatory to avoid unnecessary neurological injury in an otherwise secure surgical approach.
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The authors would like to thank Dr. Juan Martino for his insightful comments and his assistance with the correction of the English text. Portions of this work were presented in abstract form at the 2011 meeting of the Spanish Society of Neurosurgery in Madrid.
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Electronic supplementary materials
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Intraoperative video showing the steps of the surgical technique that were followed in order to perform a microendoscopic discectomy using the EasyGO! spinal endoscope (MPG 67346 kb)
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Martín-Láez, R., Martínez-Agüeros, J.Á., Suárez-Fernández, D. et al. Complications of endoscopic microdiscectomy using the EASYGO! system: is there any difference with conventional discectomy during the learning-curve period?. Acta Neurochir 154, 1023–1032 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00701-012-1321-5
- Learning curve
- Microendoscopic discectomy
- Microsurgical discectomy