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Open Access Open Badges Technical advance

Multiple parallel skin markers for minimal incision lumbar disc surgery; a technical note

Kai-Jow Tsai1, Shih-Hao Chen2 and Po-Quang Chen3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Cathay General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

2 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Chang-Gung Memorial hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

3 Department of Orthopedic Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2004, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-8

Published: 16 March 2004



Spinal surgery depends on accurate localization to prevent incorrect surgical approaches. The trend towards minimally invasive surgery that minimizes surgical exposure and reduces postoperative pain increasingly requires surgeons to accurately determine the operative level before an incision is made. Preoperative localization with a C-arm image intensifier is popular, but the exposure of both patients and theatre staff to radiation is a disadvantage, as well as being time-consuming.


We describe a simple surgical tool developed to help localize exact spinal levels in conjunction with a simple AP X-ray film immediately before surgery. Multiple parallel skin markers were made using a circular oven rack comprising multiple 1.5 cm spaced parallel wires attached to a circular outside rim. The longest line was placed on the line of the postero-superior iliac spine (PSIS) over the junction of the L5-S1 region.

Results and conclusions

Based on the film taken, the incision can be accurately made at the intended level. The incision wound can be minimized to 3.0 cm even when using conventional disc surgery instruments.