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Laparoscopic lumbar diskectomy: preliminary report of a minimally invasive anterior approach to the herniated L5-S1 disk.

Approximately 300,000 patients each year in the United States undergo laminectomy for disabling lumbar disk herniation. Postlaminectomy hospitalization is 3-7 days and convalescence may be prolonged. As an alternative to laminectomy, we have developed a technique for performing L5-S1 lumbar diskectomy laparoscopically. Using an anterior approach, the intervertebral disk space is opened and the diskectomy is performed under direct videolaparoscopic imaging. After pneumoperitoneum is established, the patient is placed in a steep Trendelenburg position. The small bowel is retracted cephalad and the colon moved to the left. The iliac vessels are identified visually and by Doppler probe. Then the presacral space is dissected in the midline to expose the L5-S1 disk. The disk annulus is opened with the Nd:YAG contact laser (four cases) or the harmonic scalpel (three cases). Diskectomy is performed under direct videolaparoscopic vision using standard neurosurgical instruments modified for laparoscopy. The posterior longitudinal ligament can be visualized directly to define the posterior limits of the completed diskectomy. Laparoscopy lumbar diskectomy has been performed on seven patients (five male, two female). No perioperative complications occurred. All seven patients had immediate relief of back pain after laparoscopic lumbar diskectomy. Five patients were discharged the next day and two on the second postoperative day. L5-S1 laparoscopic lumbar diskectomy is feasible and safe. It may be an effective minimally invasive alternative to laminectomy.

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