In conventional laminectomy for lumbar canal stenosis (LCS), intraoperative damage of posterior supporting structures can lead to irreversible atrophy of paraspinal muscles. In 2001, the authors developed a new procedure for lumbar laminectomy, the lumbar spinous process-splitting laminectomy (LSPSL). In this new procedure, the spinous process is split longitudinally in the middle and then divided at its base from the posterior arch, leaving the bilateral paraspinal muscles attached to the lateral aspects. Ample working space for laminectomy is obtained by retracting the split spinous process laterally together with its attached paraspinal muscles. After successfully decompressing nerve tissues, each half of the split spinous process is reapproximated using a strong suture. Thus, the supra- and interspinous ligaments are preserved, as is the spinous process, and damage to the paraspinal muscles is minimal. Eighteen patients with LCS underwent surgery in which this new technique was used. Twenty patients in whom conventional laminectomy was undertaken were chosen as controls. At 2 years, the clinical outcomes (as determined using the Japanese Orthopaedic Association [JOA] scores and recovery rate) and the rate of measured magnetic resonance imaging-documented paravertebral muscle atrophy were evaluated and compared between the two groups. The mean JOA score recovery rates were 67.6 and 59.2%, respectively, for patients treated with LSPSL and conventional laminectomy; the mean rates of paravertebral muscle atrophy were 5.3 and 23.9%, respectively (p = 0.0005). Preservation of posterior supporting structures and satisfactory recovery rate after 2 years indicated that this technique can be a useful alternative to conventional decompression surgery for lumbar canal stenosis.
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