Innovations in surgical techniques and technologies have enabled spine surgeons to offer patients less morbid alternatives to traditional spine procedures. This review will explore the development of the endoscopic transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) without general endotracheal anesthesia (GETA) and discuss the technical refinements and innovations learned from experiences with this technique. The Awake TLIF employs several key technological innovations: (I) conscious sedation; (II) endoscopic visualization; (III) an expandable interbody device; (IV) recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein; (V) long-acting local analgesia; and (VI) percutaneous instrumentation. Technical refinements, including premedication for prophylaxis against nausea, vomiting, and epistaxis, were made as a result of early experiences with this technique. Results from the first 100 patients to undergo the Awake TLIF demonstrated durable clinical benefit beyond one year postoperatively. Operating time, blood loss, and hospital length of stay averages well below those generally seen with conventional MIS TLIF. Patients achieved a significant reduction in Oswestry Disability Index from baseline of -12.3 points (P<0.0001). In this initial 100 patient cohort, four conversions to GETA were required and four complications resulted, three of which occurred during the first 50 cases. To date, over 200 Awake TLIF cases and the first three-level procedure have been performed. Endoscopic TLIF without the use of general anesthesia is a novel but promising approach for short-segment lumbar fusion. Continued technical innovations will likely afford greater improvements in outcomes, both in the acute and long-term recovery periods.
2019 Annals of Translational Medicine. All rights reserved.