Asian Spine J Search


Asian Spine J > Volume 12(1); 2018 > Article
Moon and Rajaram Manoharan: Endoscopic Spine Surgery: Current State of Art and the Future Perspective


Endoscopic spine surgery promises to be the next paradigm shift in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). The use of endoscopy in spine surgery is not a novel concept; Forst and Hausmann [1] described the use of an arthroscope to visualize the contents of the intervertebral disc in 1983, and the first description of an endoscopic discectomy by Kambin et al. [2] followed soon after in 1988. However, the use of endoscopy has been slow to develop, partly due to un-familiarity with the technique and clinical benefits. Studies of its safety and efficacy are beginning to surface [345], and full endoscopic spine procedures are now being performed in spine centers around the world.

Current Indications

Endoscopic techniques originated in the lumbar spine, and have now expanded to include the cervical [6], thoracic [78], and thoracolumbar junction regions [910]. Popular approaches include the transforaminal and interlaminar approach in the lumbar spine, and anterior and posterior approach in the cervical region [11]. Published experiences in endoscopic spinal surgery include treatment of primary and recurrent disc disease, failed back surgery syndrome, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, synovial cysts, radiculopathy, infectious processes, discogenic back pain, spinal tumors, dural tears, and tethered cord syndrome. Surgical options and indications will likely continue to expand as technique papers and case reports are published in the literature.

Proposed Benefits

Endoscopic surgery encompasses the benefits of ‘traditional’ minimally invasive surgery. Most of these surgeries can be performed under local anesthesia with sedation in an outpatient setting, with some studies reporting improved quality of life [356] and potential for reduced costs [7]. However, more literature is needed to further investigate these potential benefits over traditional open procedures.

Limitations & Learning Curve

Similar to MISS in general, endoscopic surgery has a steep learning curve, and requires additional training, careful patient selection, and thorough understanding of the anatomy [8910]. Additionally, endoscopic spine surgery is contraindicated in cases of cauda equina syndrome, clinically relevant instabilities and deformities, and some cases of large disc herniations. There is also concern of radiation exposure to the patient and surgeon, particularly during a surgeon's early experience in minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery [11]. Similarly, there may be a higher rate of complications during these early experiences, which include dural tears, dysesthesia, nerve or vessel injury, hematoma, infection, and potentially higher recurrence rates [12]. Some solutions to these concerns include conferences and workshops, didactic lectures, virtual reality learning, hands-on cadaveric training, and surgical observation.

Future Perspective

With advancement in implant and instrument technology and incorporation of robotic technology there may be expansion of surgical indications into motion preserving scoliosis surgeries, tumor resections and more complex surgical procedures. As we move towards a patient-centered and cost-effective model of healthcare, we may see endoscopic spine surgery become increasingly relevant to the future of spine surgical practice with improved patient outcomes and decreased medical costs. The future of endoscopic spine surgery remains to be seen, but early results are promising.


Conflict of Interest: No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


1. Forst R, Hausmann B. Nucleoscopy: a new examination technique. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg 1983 101:219–221. PMID: 6870510.
crossref pmid
2. Kambin P, Nixon JE, Chait A, Schaffer JL. Annular protrusion: pathophysiology and roentgenographic appearance. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 1988 13:671–675. PMID: 2972071.
crossref pmid
3. Anichini G, Landi A, Caporlingua F, et al. Lumbar endoscopic microdiscectomy: where are we now?: an updated literature review focused on clinical outcome, complications, and rate of recurrence. Biomed Res Int 2015 2015:417801PMID: 26688809.
crossref pmid pmc pdf
4. Li XC, Zhong CF, Deng GB, Liang RW, Huang CM. Full-endoscopic procedures versus traditional discectomy surgery for discectomy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of current global clinical trials. Pain Physician 2016 19:103–118. PMID: 27008284.
crossref pmid
5. Middleton SD, Wagner R, Gibson JNA. Multi-level spine endoscopy: a review of available evidence and case report. EFORT Open Rev 2017 2:317–323. PMID: 28828180.
crossref pmid pmc
6. Kapetanakis S, Giovannopoulou E, Charitoudis G, Kazakos K. Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) following transforaminal percutaneous endoscopic discectomy (TPED) for lumbar disc herniation: a prospective cohort study - early results. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil 2017 30:1311–1317. PMID: 28946526.
crossref pmid
7. Wang MY, Chang HK, Grossman J. Reduced acute care costs with the ERAS minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion compared with conventional minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion. Neurosurgery 2017 7 28 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 10.1093/neuros/nyx400.
crossref pdf
8. Choi DJ, Choi CM, Jung JT, Lee SJ, Kim YS. Learning curve associated with complications in biportal endoscopic spinal surgery: challenges and strategies. Asian Spine J 2016 10:624–629. PMID: 27559440.
crossref pmid pmc
9. Wang H, Huang B, Li C, et al. Learning curve for percutaneous endoscopic lumbar discectomy depending on the surgeon's training level of minimally invasive spine surgery. Clin Neurol Neurosurg 2013 115:1987–1991. PMID: 23830496.
crossref pmid
10. Hsu HT, Chang SJ, Yang SS, Chai CL. Learning curve of full-endoscopic lumbar discectomy. Eur Spine J 2013 22:727–733. PMID: 23076645.
crossref pmid
11. Iprenburg M, Wagner R, Godschalx A, Telfeian AE. Patient radiation exposure during transforaminal lumbar endoscopic spine surgery: a prospective study. Neurosurg Focus 2016 40:E7.
12. Yue JJ, Long W. Full endoscopic spinal surgery techniques: advancements, indications, and outcomes. Int J Spine Surg 2015 9:17PMID: 26114086.
crossref pmid pmc


Browse all articles >

Editorial Office
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine
88, Olympic-ro 43-gil, Songpa-gu, Seoul 05505, Korea
Tel: +82-2-3010-3530    Fax: +82-2-3010-8555    E-mail:                
Korean Society of Spine Surgery
27, Dongguk-ro, Ilsandong-gu, Goyang-si 10326, Korea
Tel: +82-31-966-3413    Fax: +82-2-831-3414    E-mail:                

Copyright © 2024 by Korean Society of Spine Surgery.

Developed in M2PI

Close layer
prev next