Endoscopic Spine Surgery Will Change How You Look at Spine Pain

In 1998, when I began to specialize in endoscopic spine surgery, I had some preconceived and vague ideas about what caused neck and back pain, but not a clear idea.

A “clear idea” is being able to listen to someone talk about their pain and make a reasonably accurate diagnosis of what the problem may be. After thousands of conversations, procedures, and positive results, I’m confident that I now have a clear idea about neck and back pain.  This ability evolved and was confirmed after listening to many people tell me about their particular pain, and then performing an endoscopic procedure to relieve the pain.

The endoscope has allowed me to see several conditions that can be definitively treated. We can see osteophytes and spurs that can pinch the cervical facet capsule and synovial tissues. These small bony structures are difficult to see on an MRI but can cause significant pain in the neck. Once they are viewed and identified, they can be removed.

Another example is stimulated medial branches to the lumbar facets that can be seen and divided to inactivate them. Painful problems that we never knew existed in the past, can now be seen and treated.

This same phenomenon occurred in the early 1980s as sports surgeons transitioned from open surgery to endoscopic surgery (arthroscopy). Painful conditions that could not be seen on an MRI were finally viewed under the endoscope. A couple of examples are chondral defects and plica not seen on MRI scans. The endoscopic recognition of these conditions established a diagnosis and the possibility of successful treatment.

Recently I saw a patient with upper thoracic pain and diagnosed thoracic facet syndrome with a block. The surprise came at the time of the thoracic facet debridement when I removed a loose body from the painful T3-4 thoracic facet joint.

Endoscopic spine surgery will change the way you look at a painful spine.