Combined intra-extracanal approach to lumbosacral disc herniations with bi-radicular involvement. Technical considerations from a surgical series of 15 cases

Sergio Paolini, Pasquale Ciappetta, Antonino Raco, Paolo Missori, Roberto Delfini
European Spine Journal 2006, 15 (5): 554-8
Large lumbosacral disc herniations effacing both the paramedian and the foraminal area often cause double radicular compression. Surgical management of these lesions may be difficult. A traditional interlaminar approach usually brings into view only the paramedian portion of the intervertebral disc, unless the lateral bone removal is considerably increased. Conversely, the numerous far-lateral approaches proposed for removing foraminal or extraforaminal disc herniations would decompress the exiting nerve root only. Overall, these approaches share the drawback of controlling the neuroforamen on one side alone. A combined intra-extraforaminal exposure is a useful yet rarely reported approach. Over a 3-year period, 15 patients with bi-radicular symptoms due to large disc herniations of the lumbar spine underwent surgery through a combined intra-extracanal approach. A standard medial exposure with an almost complete hemilaminectomy of the upper vertebra was combined with an extraforaminal exposure, achieved by minimal drilling of the inferior facet joint, the lateral border of the pars interarticularis and the inferior margin of the superior transverse process. The herniated discs were removed using key maneuvers made feasible by working simultaneously on both operative windows. In all cases the disc herniation could be completely removed, thus decompressing both nerve roots. Radicular pain was fully relieved without procedure-related morbidity. The intra-extraforaminal exposure was particularly useful in identifying the extraforaminal nerve root early. Early identification was especially advantageous when periradicular scar tissue hid the nerve root from view, as it did in patients who had undergone previous surgery at the same site or had long-standing radicular symptoms. Controlling the foramen on both sides also reduced the risk of leaving residual disc fragments. A curved probe was used to push the disc material outside the foramen. In conclusion, specific surgical maneuvers made feasible by a simultaneous extraspinal and intraspinal exposure allow quick, safe and complete removal of lumbosacral disc herniations with paramedian and foraminal extension.

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