Dr. Jho's Endoscopic Decompression via Microforaminotomy for Lumbar Stenosis: Minimally Invasive Lumbar Stenosis Surgery : Low Back Surgery

Hae Dong Jho, M.D., Ph.D.

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Pathoanatomy of lumbar stenosis
     Lumbar stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal (where spinal nerves pass) is narrowed and causes symptoms by compression of the spinal nerves.  It can be subdivided into congenital stenosis and acquired stenosis.
     Congenital stenosis can occur with particular diseases; however, it can also occur in the general population (who do not have any particular disease conditions).  Some people are born with a relatively narrow spinal canal.  They may remain asymptomatic until a minor degenerative process causes further narrowing of the spinal canal.
     Acquired stenosis is the second and most common type, which is due to degenerative changes.  With degeneration of  the disc, the height of the disc decreases while the width of the disc increases, accompanied by protrusion of the disc and bone spur formation at the edge of the vertebrae.  The facet joints, which are the two sliding articular joints at the posterior portion of the spinal motion unit, develop arthritic changes that consist of bone spur formation and overgrowth of the joint capsule.  Narrowing of the spinal canal (lumbar stenosis) occurs with the combination of changes in the disc and facet joints.

Symptoms of lumbar stenosis
     Most patients complain of low back pain as their main symptom.  However, there is usually no direct correlation between the degree of spondylotic changes and the degree of low back pain.  The narrowing of the spinal canal can occur diffusely or focally.  Focal stenosis can cause symptoms related to the nerve root that is compressed.  It can cause severe sharp pain in the leg, or burning and numbing sensations in the leg.  Diffuse stenosis can cause burning and numbing sensations or pain in the leg, difficulty in walking, weakness in the legs, muscle loss, and difficulty in bowel and bladder control.  Patients develop those symptoms when they try to walk some distance (neurogenic claudication).  When they sit down or bend forwards for a few minutes, they will note improvement of their symptoms.  The symptoms improve in this position because their spinal canal opens up to some degree when the spine bends forward.  Riding a bike is easier for them than walking because riding a bike keeps their lumbar spine bent forward.  Pushing a supermarket cart with a leaning-forward posture is often easier for patients also.   

     Treatments consist of conservative treatments and surgical treatments.  Conservative treatments include medications, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, local blocks, epidural blocks, steroid treatment, etc.  When conservative treatments do not improve their symptoms, surgical treatments may be required.
     For focal stenosis, surgical treatment is directed to release of compression at the exact pathologic site.  For diffuse stenosis, conventional surgical treatment is decompressive laminectomy.  Dr. Jho developed endoscopic decompression surgery for focal stenosis as well as diffuse stenosis.  Dr. Jho's endoscopic decompression for focal stenosis accomplishes release of compression by providing the compressed nerve with a wider passage route.  Dr. Jho's endoscopic decompression of diffuse stenosis achieves widening of the narrowed spinal canal bilaterally through a small foraminotomy hole.  By doing so, most bony anatomy is preserved (contrary to the conventional laminectomy technique).  Dr. Jho's technique eliminates the use of bone fusion or metal implants that have been in common use by spine surgeons in recent years.

Facts About This Surgery


Degenerative spondylotic spine disease which causes break down of vertebrae, narrows the spinal cord canal and can lead to symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and difficulty walking and passing urine. As an analogy, picture a coal mine tunnel that has partially collapsed making the passageway narrow in some areas. This condition is referred to as lumbar stenosis. Conventional surgical treatment involves removing large portions of bone by laminectomy. A new procedure has been developed to achieve widening of the canal while only making small holes in the bone, referred to as endoscopic microforaminotomy, so as not to weaken the overall structure of the spine and to decrease postoperative discomfort. This is all accomplished through a small incision and allows the patient to usually go home the following day.


Jho, HD: Microdecompression via unilateral laminotomy for spondylotic lumbar stenosis: Technical note. (In preparation)

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