Gijsbert Overdevest, Carmen Vleggeert-Lankamp, Wilco Jacobs, Claudius Thomé, Robert Gunzburg, Wilco Peul

October 2015, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 2244 - 2263 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-015-4098-4

First Online: 17 July 2015


To compare the effectiveness of techniques of posterior decompression that limit the extent of bony decompression or to avoid removal of posterior midline structures of the lumbar spine versus conventional facet-preserving laminectomy for the treatment of patients with degenerative lumbar stenosis.


A comprehensive electronic search of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, and the clinical trials registries and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform was conducted for relevant literature up to June 2014.


A total of four high-quality RCTs and six low-quality RCTs met the search criteria of this review. These studies included a total of 733 participants. Three different techniques that avoid removal of posterior midline structures are compared to conventional laminectomy; unilateral laminotomy for bilateral decompression, bilateral laminotomy and split-spinous process laminotomy. Evidence of low or very low quality suggests that different techniques of posterior decompression and conventional laminectomy have similar effects on functional disability and leg pain. Only perceived recovery at final follow-up was better in patients that underwent bilateral laminotomy compared with conventional laminectomy. Unilateral laminotomy for bilateral decompression and bilateral laminotomy resulted in numerically fewer cases of iatrogenic instability, although in both cases, the incidence of instability was low. The difference in severity of postoperative low back pain following bilateral laminotomy and split-spinous process laminotomy was significantly less, but was too small to be clinically important. We found no evidence to show that the incidence of complications, length of the procedure, length of hospital stay and postoperative walking distance differed between techniques of posterior decompression.


The evidence provided by this systematic review for the effects of unilateral laminotomy for bilateral decompression, bilateral laminotomy and split-spinous process laminotomy compared with conventional laminectomy on functional disability, perceived recovery and leg pain is of low or very low quality. Therefore, further research is necessary to establish whether these techniques provide a safe and effective alternative for conventional laminectomy. Proposed advantages of these techniques regarding the incidence of iatrogenic instability and postoperative back pain are plausible, but definitive conclusions are limited by poor methodology and poor reporting of outcome measures among included studies.

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