BACKGROUND: The optimal surgical approach for thoracic disc herniation remains a matter of debate, especially for central disc herniation. In this paper, we present a new technique to remove central thoracic disc herniation, the posterior transdural approach, and report a series of 13 cases operated on in this way at our institute.
METHODS: Between September 2004 and October 2010, 13 patients with symptomatic central thoracic disc herniation were operated on, utilising this posterior transdural approach. All patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the thoracic spine before surgery. All patients were followed at our outpatient department for at least 3 months. In addition, all patients were interviewed in April 2009 and February 2011 to evaluate the final results. A seven-point Likert scale was applied and the Frankel score was determined preoperatively and postoperatively. Additionally, a postoperative MRI was obtained for all but two patients.
RESULTS: The most frequently involved levels were T10-11 and T12-L1. Median operative time was 210 min (range 140-360). Three patients experienced reversible complications. No patient required spinal fixation. The median duration of hospitalisation was 6 days (range 4-20 days). With a median follow-up of 18 months, symptoms improved in 12 patients (92%), including the three patients with complications. One patient was unchanged (8%), while none of the patients experienced worsening of symptoms.
CONCLUSIONS: The posterior transdural approach is well tolerated by the patient and has a relatively high success rate. It is a relatively simple and safe procedure, suitable for the operative treatment of almost all types of thoracic disc herniation, but especially the centrally located disc herniation.