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Risk of reoperation and infection after percutaneous endoscopic lumbar discectomy and open lumbar discectomy

a nationwide population-based study

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Open discectomy (OD) is the standard operation for lumbar disc herniation (LDH). Percutaneous endoscopic lumbar discectomy (PELD), however, has shown similar outcomes to OD and there is increasing interest in this procedure. However despite improved surgical techniques and instrumentation, reoperation and infection rates continue and are reported to be between 6% and 24% and 0.7% and 16%, respectively. The objective of this study was to compare the rate of reoperation and infection within six months of patients being treated for LDH either by OD or PELD.


In this retrospective, nationwide cohort study, the Korean National Health Insurance database from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2018 was reviewed. Data were extracted for patients who underwent OD or PELD for LDH without a history of having undergone either procedure during the preceding year. Individual patients were followed for six months through their encrypted unique resident registration number. The primary endpoints were rates of reoperation and infection during the follow-up period. Other risk factors for reoperation and infection were also evalulated.


Out of 549,531 patients, 522,640 had undergone OD (95.11%) and 26,891 patients had undergone PELD (4.89%). Reoperation rates within six months were 2.28% in the OD group, and 5.38% in the PELD group. Infection rates were 1.18% in OD group and 0.83% in PELD group. The risk of reoperation was lower for patients with OD than for patients with PELD (adjusted hazard ratio (HR) 0.38). The risk of infection was higher for patients with OD than for patients undergoing PELD (HR, 1.325).


Compared with the OD group, the PELD group showed higher reoperation rates and lower infection rates.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(8):1392–1399.

Correspondence should be sent to Si Young Park. E-mail:

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