Background and Objectives: Ossification of the ligamentum flavum (OLF) is a relatively common cause of thoracic myelopathy. Surgical treatment is recommended for patients with myelopathy. Generally, open posterior decompression, with or without fusion, is selected to treat OLF. We performed minimally invasive posterior decompression using a microendoscope and investigated the efficacy of this approach in treating limited type of thoracic OLF. Materials and Methods: Microendoscopic posterior decompression was performed for 19 patients (15 men and four women) with thoracic OLF with myelopathy aged between 35 to 81 years (mean age, 61.9 years). Neurological examination and preoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) were used to identify the location and morphology of OLF. The surgery was performed using a midline approach or a unilateral paramedian approach depending on whether the surgeon used a combination of a tubular retractor and endoscope. The numerical rating scale (NRS) and modified Japanese Orthopedic Association (mJOA) scores were compared pre- and postoperatively. Perioperative complications and the presence of other spine surgeries before and after thoracic OLF surgery were also investigated. Results: Four midline and 15 unilateral paramedian approaches were performed. The average operative time per level was 99 min, with minor blood loss. Nine patients had a history of cervical or lumbar spine surgery before or after thoracic spine surgery. The mean pre- and postoperative NRS scores were 6.6 and 5.3, respectively. The mean recovery rate as per the mJOA score was 33.1% (mean follow-up period, 17.8 months), the recovery rates were significantly different between patients who underwent thoracic spine surgery alone (50.5%) and patients who underwent additional spine surgeries (13.7%). Regarding adverse events, one patient experienced dural tear, another experienced postoperative hematoma, and one other underwent reoperation for adjacent thoracic stenosis. Conclusion: Microendoscopic posterior decompression was applicable in limited type of thoracic OLF surgery including beak-shaped type and multi vertebral levels. However, whole spine evaluation is important to avoid missing other combined stenoses that may affect outcomes.
microendoscopic spine surgery; minimally invasive; ossification of ligamentum flavum; posterior decompression; thoracic myelopathy.