Between November 1, 1995, and January 31, 1996, four separate thoracoscopic spinal fixation surgeries were performed via extended manipulating channels using the so-called three-portal technique. The diagnoses included three spinal metastases and one T11 burst fracture. All patients had myelopathy at presentation. Using the three-portal technique, the conventional spinal instruments and fixation devices could be passed freely through the extended manipulating channels (usually 3-4 cm) into the chest cavity and manipulated by techniques similar to those used in standard open procedures. A reduction-fixation spinal plate with variable screw and plate anchoring angles was successfully inserted in the procedures. The total length of the operation ranged from 3.5 to 5 h (average 4.3 h), and the total blood loss was 1000-2500 ml (average 1500 ml). There were no intraoperative deaths, and no patient showed neurological deterioration following the procedures. On the basis of these results, we believe that the combination of video-assisted thoracoscopy and conventional spinal instruments presented in this report would be an ideal method for performing these procedures. Throughout the operation, only one trocar was employed for introducing the thoracoscope. The thoracoports were used temporarily during tumor tissue retrievals. This technique makes thoracoscopy-assisted spinal fixation simple and easy. It allows greater control of intraoperative vessel bleeding and reduces the number of portals required during the procedure (on average to 3). In addition, the technique reduced the amount of endoscopic materials required for the procedure, thus reducing the cost of treatment.
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