Transforaminal endoscopic techniques have become increasingly popular in surgery of patients with lumbar stenosis. The literature has not yet been systematically reviewed. A comprehensive systematic literature review up to November 2009 to assess the effectiveness of transforaminal endoscopic surgery in patients with symptomatic lumbar stenosis was made. Two reviewers independently checked all retrieved titles and abstracts and relevant full text articles for inclusion criteria. Included articles were assessed for quality, and relevant data, including outcomes, were extracted by two reviewers independently. No randomized controlled trials were identified, but seven observational studies. The studies were of poor methodological quality and heterogeneous regarding patient selection, indications, operation techniques, follow-up period and outcome measures. Overall, 69-83% reported the outcome as satisfactory and a complication rate of 0-8.3%. The reported re-operation rate varied from 0 to 20%. At present, there is no valid evidence from randomized controlled trials on the effectiveness of transforaminal endoscopic surgery for lumbar stenosis. Randomized controlled trials comparing transforaminal endoscopic surgery with other surgical techniques are direly needed. © 2010 The Author(s).