COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Percutaneous laser disc decompression versus conventional microdiscectomy in sciatica: a randomized controlled trial

Patrick A Brouwer, Ronald Brand, M Elske van den Akker-van Marle, Wilco C H Jacobs, Barry Schenk, Annette A van den Berg-Huijsmans, Bart W Koes, M A van Buchem, Mark P Arts, Wilco C Peul
Spine Journal: Official Journal of the North American Spine Society 2015 May 1, 15 (5): 857-65
25614151

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Percutaneous laser disc decompression (PLDD) is a minimally invasive treatment for lumbar disc herniation, with Food and Drug Administration approval since 1991. However, no randomized trial comparing PLDD to conventional treatment has been performed.

PURPOSE: In this trial, we assessed the effectiveness of a strategy of PLDD as compared with conventional surgery.

STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: This randomized prospective trial with a noninferiority design was carried out in two academic and six teaching hospitals in the Netherlands according to an intent-to-treat protocol with full institutional review board approval.

PATIENT SAMPLE: One hundred fifteen eligible surgical candidates, with sciatica from a disc herniation smaller than one-third of the spinal canal, were included.

OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcome measures for this trial were the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire for sciatica, visual analog scores for back and leg pain, and the patient's report of perceived recovery.

METHODS: Patients were randomly allocated to PLDD (n=57) or conventional surgery (n=58). Blinding was impossible because of the nature of the interventions. This study was funded by the Healthcare Insurance Board of the Netherlands.

RESULTS: The primary outcome, Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire, showed noninferiority of PLDD at 8 (-0.1; [95% confidence interval (CI), -2.3 to 2.1]) and 52 weeks (-1.1; 95% CI, -3.4 to 1.1) compared with conventional surgery. There was, however, a higher speed of recovery in favor of conventional surgery (hazard ratio, 0.64 [95% CI, 0.42-0.97]). The number of reoperations was significantly less in the conventional surgery group (38% vs. 16%). Overall, a strategy of PLDD, with delayed surgery if needed, resulted in noninferior outcomes at 1 year.

CONCLUSIONS: At 1 year, a strategy of PLDD, followed by surgery if needed, resulted in noninferior outcomes compared with surgery.

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