Background: Open discectomy is the standard surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with long-lasting sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation. Minimally invasive approaches such as microendoscopic discectomy have gained attention in recent years. Reduced tissue trauma allows early ambulation, short hospital stay and quick resumption of daily activities. A comparative cost-effectiveness study has not been performed yet. We present the design of a randomised controlled trial on cost-effectiveness of microendoscopic discectomy versus conventional open discectomy in patients with lumbar disc herniation. Methods/Design: Patients (age 18-70 years) presenting with sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation lasting more than 6-8 weeks are included. Patients with disc herniation larger than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter, or disc herniation less than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter with concomitant lateral recess stenosis or sequestration, are eliglible for participation. Randomisation into microendoscopic discectomy or conventional unilateral transflaval discectomy will take place in the operating room after induction of anesthesia. The length of skin incision is equal in both groups. The primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient, measured by the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica, at 8 weeks and 1 year after surgery. We will also evaluate several other outcome parameters, including perceived recovery, leg and back pain, incidence of re-operations, complications, serum creatine kinase, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism and costs. The study is a randomised prospective multi-institutional trial, in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses are kept blinded of the allocated treatment during the follow-up period of 2 years. Discussion: Currently, open discectomy is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Whether microendoscopic discectomy is more cost-effective than unilateral transflaval discectomy has to be determined by this trial.

dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-7-42, hdl.handle.net/1765/62398
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Department of Neuroscience

Arts, M.P, Peul, W.C, Brand, R, Koes, B.W, & Thomeer, R.T.W.M. (2006). Cost-effectiveness of microendoscopic discectomy versus conventional open discectomy in the treatment of lumbar disc herniation. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 7. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-42