Thoracoscopic Approaches to the Thoracic Spine
Microsurgical approaches for the treatment of pathology located in the ventral thoracic spine using video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) allow neurosurgeons to access the disc spaces, vertebral bodies, paravertebral soft tissues, spinal cord, spinal nerves, and sympathetic chain with minimally invasive surgery. This has been associated with substantial clinical benefits including reduced postoperative pain, lower complication rates and shorter recovery times when compared with standard thoracotomy techniques. This article describes the experience at our institution with VATS for discectomy (20 cases), corpectomy and spinal reconstruction (8 cases), thoracic sympathectomy (3 cases), and nerve sheath tumor removal (1 case). The technique can be mastered but requires surgeons to learn the new psychomotor skills needed to perform endoscopic spine surgery. The learning curve is steep. Special training in instructional seminars, surgical skill laboratories, and clinical preceptorships is needed before this surgical approach can be used clinically to treat spinal pathology. VATS has significant advantages compared to standard thoracotomy, including reduced incisional pain and avoidance of the postthoracotomy pain syndrome. If intercostal neuralgia develops postoperatively, it is milder and usually transient compared to the pain associated with standard thoracotomy. Better cosmetic outcomes, earlier mobilization, and faster recovery are added benefits. The surgical techniques are relatively new for neurosurgeons and require dedicated practice to master them. Once the surgical skills are perfected, VATS is feasible for spinal pathology and can be performed safely and effectively.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Visocchi, M.; Masferrer, R.; Sonntag, Volker K.H.; and Dickman, C. A., "Thoracoscopic Approaches to the Thoracic Spine" (1998). Neurosurgery. 471.