Journal Article
Observational Study
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Posterolateral approaches to the thoracic spine for calcific disc herniation: is wider exposure always better?

OBJECTIVE: To compare the costotransversectomy (CTV) and transpedicular (TP) approaches versus the transfacet (TF) approach for the surgical treatment of calcific thoracic spine herniations (cTDH), in terms of surgical and clinical outcomes.

BACKGROUND: Surgical approaches for cTDH are debated. Anterior approaches are recommended, while posterolateral approaches are preferred for non-calcific, paramedian, and lateral hernias. Currently, there is limited evidence about the superiority of a more invasive surgical approach, such as CTV or TP, over TF, a relatively less invasive approach, in terms of neurological outcome, pain, and surgical complications, for the treatment of cTDH.

METHODS: A retrospective, observational, monocentric study was conducted on patients who underwent posterolateral thoracic approaches for symptomatic cTDH, between 2010 and 2023, at our institute. Three groups were drafted, based on the surgical approach used: TF, TP, and CTV. All procedures were assisted by intraoperative CT scan, spinal neuronavigation, and intraoperative neuromonitoring. Analyzed factors include duration of surgery, amount of bone removal, intraoperative blood loss, CSF leak, need of instrumentation for iatrogenic instability, degree of disc herniation removal, myelopathy recovery. Afterwards, a statistical analysis was performed to investigate the bony resection of the superior posterior edge of the vertebral soma. The primary outcome was the partial or total herniation removal.

RESULTS: This study consecutively enrolled 65 patients who underwent posterolateral thoracic surgery for cTDH. The TF approach taking the least, and the CTV the longest time (p < 0.01). No statistical difference was observed between the three mentioned approaches, in terms of intraoperative blood loss, dural leakage, post-resection instrumentation, total herniation removal, or myelopathy recovery. An additional somatic bony resection was successful in achieving total herniation removal (p < 0.01), and the extent of bony resection was directly proportional to the extent of hernia removal (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: No statistically significant differences were highlighted between the TP, TF, and CTV regarding the extent of cTDH removal, the postoperative complications, and the neurological improvement. The described somatic bone resection achieved significant total herniation removal and was directly proportional to the preop against postop anteroposterior diameter difference.

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