Should anyone perform percutaneous endoscopic laser diskectomy and percutaneous lumbar disc decompressions?


Increasingly, pain management specialists (P-S) (e.g., anesthesiologists, radiologists, or physiatrists), who are not spinal surgeons, are performing percutaneous endoscopic laser diskectomy (PELD), percutaneous lumbar disc decompression (PLDD), and target percutaneous laser disc decompression (T-PLDD) in patients with minimal/mild disc herniations. Here, theoretically, the laser vaporizes/shrinks a small portion of disc tissue that lowers intradiscal pressure/volume, and thereby provides “symptomatic relief” (e.g., low back pain/radiculopathy). Nevertheless, the vast majority of these patients experience spontaneous relief of their complaints over several months without any intervention.


A literature review revealed that P-S specialists are performing PELD/PLDD/T-PLDD to address minimal/mild disc herniations. However, multiple well-designed studies confirmed that PELD/PLDD/T-PLDD were ineffective for managing acute/chronic pain in these patients.


Several randomized clinical trials documented the lack of clinical efficacy of PELD/PLDD/T-PLLD procedures over microdiskectomy. PELD/PLDD/T-PLDD correlated with only 60-70% success rates with higher reoperation rates (e.g., up to 38%) vs. 90% success rates for routine microdiskectomy (e.g., with faster recovery and only 16% reoperation rates). Nevertheless, without surgical training, P-S are performing these procedures and are, therefore, unable to adddress perioperative/postoperative PELD/PLDD/T-PLDD surgical complications.


Pain management specialists, who are not trained spinal surgeons, should not perform PELD/PLDD/T-PLDD surgery to treat minimal/mild disc herniations. Not only do most of these discs resolve spontaneously over several months but also they are largely ineffective. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the superiority of PELD/PLDD/T-PLDD procedures over microdiskectomy even if performed by spinal specialists.


Pain management specialists: Not surgeons; percutaneous lumbar endoscopic diskectomy; spinal surgery.

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