Laparoscopic lateral L4-L5 disc exposure

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Surgical Endoscopy and Other Interventional Techniques








Background: The anterior laparoscopic approach requires precarious dissection around the iliac vessels to expose the L4-L5 level. Furthermore, a retroperitoneal endoscopic approach to the L4-L5 level requires a technically demanding dissection to access the L5-S1 disc space. A unique lateral laparoscopic approach to the L4-L5 disc space allows concurrent access to the L5-S1 space while avoiding major dissection around the iliac vessels. This article describes this novel lateral approach and reviews the initial clinical outcomes. Methods: Between January 1999 and April 2000, five patients underwent laparoscopic lateral L4-L5 disc exposure at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All charts were reviewed retrospectively. Mean values ± standard deviation were determined for patient demographics and operative characteristics. A standard five-port laparoscopic technique was used. The sigmoid colon was retracted medially with an endoloop. The retroperitoneum was entered and the ureter and left iliac artery were retracted medially, whereas the psoas was retracted laterally. Fluoroscopy delineated the L4-L5 disc space allowing discectomy and cage insertion. Postoperatively, subjective patient satisfaction was obtained and radiologic evidence of fusion was assessed. Results: All five patients were males, with a mean age of 47.4 ± 7 years and a body mass index of 30 ± 6 kg/m2. Four patients had an L4-L5 and L5-S1 fusion and one patient had an L4-L5 and L3-L4 fusion. Mean operative time was 349 ± 32 min, with a mean blood loss of 210 ± 74 cc. There were no intraoperative complications and no conversions, and postoperatively all patients were started on a clear liquid diet on postoperative day 1. The mean length of stay was 3.4 ±0.9 days. Patients returned to work in a mean of 12 ± 7 weeks. All patients had evidence of fusion on their radiologic follow-up. Four patients were pain free, whereas one patient required intermittent narcotics at 1-year follow-up. Conclusions: For multilevel fusions including the L4-L5 disc space, the lateral laparoscopic exposure is a safe and efficacious procedure allowing simultaneous access to multiple disc spaces while avoiding the sympathetic chain, ureter, and major vascular structures. The lateral approach affords excellent exposure for accurate deployment of the appropriate orthopedic hardware.

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