Few neurosurgeons practicing today have had training in the field of endoscopic spine surgery during residency or fellowship. Nevertheless, since 1980s individual spine surgeons from around the world have worked to create a subfield of minimally invasive spine surgery that takes the point of visualization away from the surgeon's eye or the lens of a microscope and puts it directly at the point of spine disease.
The history of endoscopic spine surgery has involved 3 phases: inspiration, invention, and innovation. The inspired early practitioners sought a means of accessing lumbar disc herniations that would be less invasive than traditional open techniques. The early endoscopic surgeons targeted disc pathology through a corridor that would become known eponymously for its originator, Dr. Parviz Kambin. Invention would then be required to make endoscopic discectomy a feasible and then a successful procedure: better working-channel rigid endoscopes, high-definition cameras, drills, trephines, articulated graspers, and other instruments.
With 50 years of groundwork on which to build, the innovators now have the tools and background knowledge to treat a myriad of spine pathologies beyond the herniated lumbar disc for which the technique was intended. The story of endoscopic spine surgery is far from complete, but it demonstrates the interplay of imagination and technology in developing new surgical techniques.