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Percutaneous lumbar laser disc decompression: a systematic review of current evidence

BACKGROUND: Since the descriptions by Mixter and Barr of open surgical treatment for rupture of the intervertebral disc in 1934, open surgical procedures have become a common practice. Disc herniations have been reported as being contained and non-contained. The results of open surgical discectomy for contained disc herniation have been poor. Consequently, several alternative techniques have been developed which are minimally invasive including percutaneous laser disc decompression. STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review of the literature. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this systematic review is to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of percutaneous laser discectomy in managing radicular pain secondary to contained disc herniation. METHODS: A comprehensive evaluation of the literature relating to mechanical disc decompression was performed. The literature was evaluated according to Cochrane review criteria for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) criteria was utilized for observational studies. A literature search was conducted by using only the English language literature through PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane library, systematic reviews, and cross references from reviews and systematic reviews. The level of evidence was classified as Level I, II, or III with 3 subcategories in Level II based on the quality of evidence developed by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). OUTCOME MEASURES: Pain relief was the primary outcome measure. Other outcome measures were functional improvement, improvement of psychological status, opioid intake, and return to work. Short-term effectiveness was defined as one year or less, whereas, long-term effectiveness was defined as greater than one year. RESULTS: Based on USPSTF criteria the indicated level of evidence for percutaneous lumbar laser discectomy (PLLD) is II-2 for short- and long-term relief. LIMITATIONS: Even though laser discectomy has been in utilization for a number of years and numerous procedures have been performed there continues to be a paucity of literature of randomized clinical trials. CONCLUSION: This systematic review illustrates Level II-2 evidence for percutaneous laser disc decompression which is equivalent to automated percutaneous lumbar disc decompression

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