Long-term follow up of 57 patients undergoing automated percutaneous discectomy

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Automated percutaneous discectomy has been performed in 57 patients at the author's institution since 1989, representing 4% of all lumbar spine surgeries. All 57 patients had unilateral sciatica. There were 33 women and 24 men ranging from 24 to 49 years of age, with a mean age of 45 years. All patients underwent computerized tomography (CT) in the prone position and CT and magnetic resonance imaging in the supine position. Diffuse versus eccentric disc bulging was determined for each patient. Four patients underwent surgery at the L3-4 level, four at L5-S1, and 49 at L4-5. One L5- S1 case could not be cannulated and surgery was aborted. There have been no complications related to surgery. Fifty patients (88%) stated they had reduced sciatica in the first 2 postoperative weeks. Forty (70%) had reduced sciatica 2 months postoperatively. The mean follow up period was 27 months (range 6 to 45 months), with no patient lost to follow up. At their last follow-up examination, 33 patients (58%) showed improvement in their sciatica but only three (5%) were completely pain free. Of the 17 recurrences of sciatica, 11 patients have undergone microdiscectomy, with eight showing improvement. Chi-square analysis demonstrated a significantly better chance of improvement in patients with discs bulging eccentrically to the side of sciatica (p < 0.05) compared to patients with diffusely bulging discs. Automated percutaneous discectomy is safe and in selected patients can reduce sciatica, but only completely eliminated sciatica in 5% of patients with a follow-up period of 2.5 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-33
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1995


  • lumbar disc
  • nucleotome
  • percutaneous discectomy
  • sciatica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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