Surgical outcome of workman’s comp patients undergoing endoscopic foraminal decompression for lumbar herniated disc

Anthony Yeung, Shan-Hua Wei


Background: Worker’s compensation (WC) patients undergoing spine surgery typically experience delayed return to work (RTW) compared with non-WC patients, especially those approved for surgery undergoing traditional open spine surgery. The purpose of this study was to describe the observe RTW rates in WC patients after minimally invasive “selective endoscopic discectomy” (SEDTM) for a lumbar herniated disc.
Methods: Clinical outcomes using the modified Macnab criteria and RTW data were analyzed in 118 WC patients following the outpatient SEDTM procedure in an ambulatory surgery center (ASC) using only local anesthesia with or without sedation. This endoscopic transforaminal decompression was trademarked by Anthony T. Yeung as SED.
Results: Single-level SEDTM was performed in 62 patients, a two-level in 48 patients, a three-level decompression in 6, and a four-level decompression in another two patients, respectively. Patient selection was augmented by diagnostic and therapeutic injections performed preoperatively to determine how many levels of spine segments required surgical intervention. At the two-year follow-up, Excellent Macnab outcome in 36 patients, Good in 53, Fair in another 21, and Poor in the remaining eight patients, respectively. Of the 118 WC patients, 89 (75.42%) were released back to their original job within in 6 weeks from the index operation. The average time to work release was 4.2 months. Twenty-one patients who had previous spine surgery were working. Twenty-nine of the 118 study patients (24.58%) were unable to return to their original job.
Conclusions: In the hands of a well-trained endoscopic spine surgeon, RTW rates with SEDTM are higher than with traditional open translaminar surgery. Therefore, endoscopic surgery should be considered for WC patients and further be validated as a cost-effective alternative to open spine surgery.