Background context: Percutaneous laser disc decompression (PLDD) is a minimally invasive treatment for lumbar disc herniation, with Food and Drug Administration approval since 1991. However, no randomized trial comparing PLDD to conventional treatment has been performed. Purpose: In this trial, we assessed the effectiveness of a strategy of PLDD as compared with conventional surgery. Study design/Setting: This randomized prospective trial with a noninferiority design was carried out in two academic and six teaching hospitals in the Netherlands according to an intent-to-treat protocol with full institutional review board approval. Patient sample: One hundred fifteen eligible surgical candidates, with sciatica from a disc herniation smaller than one-third of the spinal canal, were included. Outcome measures: The main outcome measures for this trial were the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire for sciatica, visual analog scores for back and leg pain, and the patient's report of perceived recovery. Methods: Patients were randomly allocated to PLDD (n=57) or conventional surgery (n=58). Blinding was impossible because of the nature of the interventions. This study was funded by the Healthcare Insurance Board of the Netherlands. Results: The primary outcome, Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire, showed noninferiority of PLDD at 8 (-0.1; [95% confidence interval (CI), -2.3 to 2.1]) and 52 weeks (-1.1; 95% CI, -3.4 to 1.1) compared with conventional surgery. There was, however, a higher speed of recovery in favor of conventional surgery (hazard ratio, 0.64 [95% CI, 0.42-0.97]). The number of reoperations was significantly less in the conventional surgery group (38% vs. 16%). Overall, a strategy of PLDD, with delayed surgery if needed, resulted in noninferior outcomes at 1 year. Conclusions: At 1 year, a strategy of PLDD, followed by surgery if needed, resulted in noninferior outcomes compared with surgery.

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The Spine Journal
Department of General Practice

Brouwer, P., Brand, R., van den Akker-van Marle, E., Jacobs, W., Schenk, B., van den Berg-Huijsmans, A., … Peul, W. (2015). Percutaneous laser disc decompression versus conventional microdiscectomy in sciatica: A randomized controlled trial. The Spine Journal, 15(5), 857–865. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2015.01.020