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Ultrasonic Total Uncinectomy: A Novel Technique for Complete Anterior Decompression of Cervical Nerve Roots

Pakzaban, Peyman MD

doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000000549
Operative Technique

BACKGROUND: In standard anterior cervical diskectomy, complete resection of the uncinate process is not commonly attempted because of the risk of injury to the vertebral artery. This may result in incomplete decompression of the nerve root when there is severe osseous foraminal stenosis.

OBJECTIVE: To demonstrate the feasibility of total uncinectomy with an ultrasonic bone dissector in patients with concomitant central and foraminal stenosis requiring anterior decompression and fusion.

METHODS: A case series of patients with cervical radiculopathy or myeloradiculopathy who underwent single-level or multilevel ultrasonic total uncinectomy (UTU) in combination with anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion is presented. The uncinate process was amputated along its base with an ultrasonic bone dissector and removed en bloc to expose the cervical root and the vertebral artery. Data gathered in accordance with routine practice were analyzed retrospectively.

RESULTS: Forty-four uncinate processes were resected in 38 patients. No UTU procedures were aborted because of technical difficulties, and no vertebral artery or nerve root injury occurred. Mean follow-up was 28 weeks (range, 14-37 weeks). Mean Neck Disability Index and Visual Analog Scale scores for neck and arm pain improved from 42%, 4.9%, and 6.8% to 23%, 2.6%, and 2.1%, respectively. Postoperative computed tomography and oblique radiographs revealed complete decompression of the neural foramen after UTU.

CONCLUSION: UTU is a safe and effective technique for complete decompression of cervical nerve roots when the coexistence of central and foraminal pathology dictates an anterior approach. The surgical technique is described in detail.

ABBREVIATIONS: ACDF, anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion

UTU, ultrasonic total uncinectomy

Houston MicroNeurosurgery, Houston, Texas

Correspondence: Peyman Pakzaban, MD, 5388 Lynbrook Dr, Houston, TX 77056. E-mail:

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Received July 08, 2014

Accepted August 20, 2014

Copyright © by the Congress of Neurological Surgeons