The appropriate approach for surgical removal of thoracic disc herniations is controversial. The posterior approach historically acquired a bad reputation due to high rates of neurologic deterioration subsequent to spinal cord manipulation. The anterior approach has consequently gained popularity but entails a larger magnitude of surgery if open and is technically demanding if approached thoracoscopically. Approaching the thoracic disc posteriorly following unilateral facetectomy and pediculectomy was suggested in 1978. This study presents a technique for posterior unilateral thoracic discectomy through a hemilaminectomy, unilateral facetectomy, and hemipediculectomy, facilitated by a novel curved dorsally shielded high-speed device. Introducing the device ventral to the dural sac allows removal of calcified and soft disc fragments without relying on forceful manual maneuvers and avoiding manipulation of the spinal cord.
The maximal disc protrusion side is approached through a hemilaminectomy, unilateral facetectomy, and hemipediculectomy removing the superior half of the pedicle and exposing the disc transforaminally, allowing its removal using the device. Pedicle fixation and fusion concluded all procedures (TTIF). Between June 2014 and November 2018, 12 patients (6 men and 6 women) ages 23 to 74 years underwent posterior thoracic discectomy applying the above approach. The affected levels were D3 to D4 (1), D5 to D6 (1), D7 to D8 (1), D9 to D10 (1), D10 to D11 (3), D11 to D12 (4), and D12 to L1 (1).
All patients presented with neurologic deterioration and all but 2 with pyramidal signs. All procedures were uneventful, without dural tears. None of the patients deteriorated neurologically. Average back pain visual analog scale scores decreased by 1.2, from 6.6 to 5.4. Average leg pain visual analog scale scores decreased by 2.2, from 6.6 to 4.4. Improvement was noted in Oswestry Disability Index scores and 6 SF-36 metrics.
The new curved device and approach allow for a faster, safer thoracic disc herniation removal.
The proposed technique allows a safer treatment for thoracic disc herniations, reducing complication rates and improving patient outcome.

©International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery 2019.