Post-surgical lumbar instability is an established complication but there is limited evidence in the literature regarding the incidence of lumbar instability following fenestration and discectomy. We analyzed our results following fenestration discectomy with a special focus on instability.
Materials and Methods:
Eighty-three patients between the age of 17 and 52 years who had undergone fenestration discectomy for a single-level lumbar intervertebral disc prolapse were followed-up for a period of 1–5 years. The criteria for instability included “instability catch,”, “painful catch,” and “apprehension.” The working capacity of the patient and the outcome score of the surgery were assessed by means of the Oswestry disability score and the Prolo economic and functional outcome score. Flexion-extension lateral radiographs were taken and analyzed for abnormal tilt and translation.
Of the 83 patients included, 70 were men and 13 were women, with an average age of 37.35 years (17–52 years) at 5 years follow-up. Clinical instability was seen in 10 (12.04%) patients. Radiological instability was noted in 29 (34.9%) patients. Only six (60%) of the 10 patients who demonstrated clinical instability had radiological evidence of instability. Twenty (68.96%) patients with radiological instability were asymptomatic. Three (10.34%) patients with only radiological instability had unsatisfactory outcome. The Oswestry scoring showed an average score of 19.8%. Mild disability was noted in 59 (71.08%) patients and moderate disability was seen in 24 (28.91%) patients. None of the patients had severe disability. These outcomes were compared with the outcomes in other studies in the literature for microdiscectomy and the results were found to be comparable.
The favorable outcome of this study is in good agreement with other studies on microdiscectomy. Clinical instability in 12.04% of the patients is in agreement with other studies. Radiological signs of instability are seen even in asymptomatic patients and so are not as reliable as clinical signs of instability. Standard fenestration discectomy does not destabilize the spine more than microdiscectomy.
Keywords: Discectomy, fenestration, instability