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MicroDisectomy - Disk herniation L5-S1: Needs Advice

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Lower Back Pain
I just joined this forum to seek advice from someone who has actually undergone MicroDisctomy operation on L5-S1 for disk herniation. I've had this problem for a long time now. It is hampering my daily activities like holding my 4 years daughter, bending and lifting weights. I have fallen and taken to hospital multiple times more often after sneezing that caused the herniated disk to impinge my nerve. It occurs about at least 2 times a year and it basically undo all my efforts of yoga, elliptical and all other forms of exercises. My orthopediacian is not encouraging operation and wants me to keep doing exercises. At the same time he maintains that success ratio of the operation is 95%. But he also says that I should stay away from playing tennis and doing all things that I love to do. So now I am seriously thinking of the operation. Can I get back to tennis, running on hard surfaces, basketball after the operation? Does anyone ever have any serious issues following this operation? Is there any strong reason to discourage this procedure besides the fact that one should not disturb the natural composition of the body. Any input to form my thoughts will be very helpful as I am very disturbed with this problem now. I am taking epidural injections but don't want to take this forever. I am in mid thirties.



  • I have had an endoscopic MicroD at L3/L4. Mine was successful in that it did help with my leg weakness and pain. I also had PLDD on that same disc in order to tighten and firm up the disc to make it stronger and lessen the chances of reherniation. On the other hand I have seen lots of folks either reherniate the same disc or have troubles with the levels above the surgery. I feel that anytime you remove part of the disc you are weakening it. You are the only one that really knows your pain level and how this is affecting your quality of life. My personal opinion is that surgery should always be left for a very last option after all non invasive procedures have failed. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • The decision to proceed with surgery is a very personal one.

    I decided to proceed with my microdiscectomy two years ago because my pain was unbearable. I had previously herniated at L5-S1 and was able to recover in about 2-3 months with occasional flare-ups about twice a year. I herniated very badly at L4-L5 and nothing worked for me. So yes, try everything else first but only you will know what you can bear. It sounds like your pain is interfering with your family life, your ability to exercise, etc. Have you consulted with a neurosurgeon yet? They can pretty much give you truth.

    My personal experience was that I was in the hospital overnight. I was supposed to be out of work for about 6 weeks, but I had a fall 3 weeks after surgery (due to left leg weakness, my big toe caught the vacuum cleaner cord and down I went). So, I was out of work completely for 8 weeks, then worked part time for one month. I am a nurse, in a pretty physically demanding job so I took it easy. I did great with only one flare-up this past Febuary that responded well to muscle relaxers & steroids. Unfortunately, I just found out that I re-herniated again at L4-L5 with my newest MRI. This herniation is not as large, but none the less, lots of pain. Had my first ESI for this yesterday. Only time can tell really. I plan to avoid surgery at all costs if I can, but if the pain gets to the point it did last time, I'd do it again. It really is a quality of life issue. My neurosurgeon did mention that I may need a fusion in the future due to my degenerative disc disease issues. I thinking of pushing for another discectomy if I need another surgery. I haven't met with him yet, I'm waiting to see how well this ESI works.

    In my opinion, why suffer needlessly? I am only 32 years old, I have a long road ahead of me. I couldn't imagine having to go through any of this longer than necessary.
  • Hi Upen!
    I had a microdiscectomy at L5 S1 3 weeks ago. I am glad that I did it. I started physical therapy yesterday and will not go back to work until Nov 30th because I am an occupational therapist and have to be able to lift with my job. It is a personal decision, I would speak with a neurosurgeon and consider it. I am 37 years old and as soon as I started having radiating pain, numbness and weakness down my right leg, I immediately headed to the neurosurgeon. The numbness is better, pain is better and I still have some weakness in toe extension, but hopefully it will improve as the swelling from the surgery goes down. Best of luck to you. The whole process was not that bad and I am happy that I made the decision to have the surgery. I was very active prior to the surgery and am looking forward to eventually returning to yoga and some of the other activities I enjoy.
  • Hi Jenbrook,
    Thanks for the letting me your progress. I have a similar case. It looks like I Need to see a neurosurgeon. I was about see orthopedic surgeon but I will postpone it until I see a neurosurgeon. I was about to jump to get the operation done but it looks like I should wait and avoid any cuts in my body. Most of the posts are NOT encouraging for operations. I am having flare up while I'm writing. Its so bad not to excercise, play with my daughter etc. I have another epidural injection next week. Hope that will make me little better. My point is that if this Bulge never gets small in size then how come my condition will ever improve. I will remain to be extra cautious and I still have lot of life left. Its miserable and I fail accept the truth that I can longer play any sports :-(
    Is there any form of other therapy to make it better?

    Thanks again
  • Hi Farmgrrl,
    Thanks for the input. Its very scary that you got herniation so soon !! What does the doctor say. My doctor say that I should be Ok next 5-10 years before it may reoccur provided I take all precautions but I will be able to play and do other regular things w/o any issue. Now your input is definitely making me things twice. i need to see neurosurgeon before I do anything else.

    Thanks for your advice again.
    Take care
  • Have you seen a Pain Management doc yet? Sometimes they can offer conservative treatments that may help ease the pain. That would be my only suggestion. Good luck.
  • Hi Grey,
    I am deferring my decision for operation until my meeting with a neurosurgeon. All the replies to my post are discouraging this operation and considering it as a last resort. So I will take the advice. But let me know if your condition is still worsening. How bad it was before the surgery on the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst?

  • Meet with a neurosurgeon and make sure to bring along a written list of your questions and concerns. The recovery from surgery takes a while and a bit of patience but I don't know that you'll never play sports again. They may not be the same sports but you definitely will get back to your previous life.

    From the research I've read, herniations do eventually shrink on their own with about a 50% reduction in size. Also, even if you don't have surgery, you can continue to have disc issues (i.e. worsen your existing herniation) so nothing is a sure bet...

    I will say that even though I'm disappointed I re-herniated, there are certain risk factors I have that I could have controlled (i.e. my weight, smoking cigarettes, sedentary lifestyle). I know that these things definitely contributed to my situation now. I am certainly not without blame! I am definitely reconsidering all of my choices and looking at making changes.

    I really can't tell you how much life did improve for the two good years I've had since my surgery. In reading many people's posts, many of those that reherniated did so very soon after surgery but the overall chance of reherniation is 5-10%.

    I hope you find some relief soon. Keep us posted.

  • I had a microdiscectomy on L4/L5 earlier this year I had a second confirmed (possibly third) herniation on that disc in 2 years. I had the surgery done because I was living on codeine and anti-inflammatories and because the numbness and pain in my leg meant I was walking with a cane. Technically my op was a success and I have very little problems with sciatica and leg numbness, but the back pain is worse.

    The thing to bear in mind with this op, is that it is not meant to strength your back or relieve back pain, it is to relieve problems associated with nerves being impinged. Your disc with always be weaker, but if you are having recurrent problems, your disc is already weak. Unfortunately that does mean limiting activities, especially lifting and twisting motion. When I asked my surgeon about playing golf he said he didn't recommend it, so I would imagine tennis would be the same.

    The question you need to ask yourself, is whether your injury is having a drastic negative effect on your life and whether you have done everything else (physio, epidural spinal injections) that could have an effect.

    Wishing you the best of luck in your decision
  • I also have si injurery, Iam seeing a neurosurgeon, he has directed me to pain management,injections,pt.I will be seeing the surgeon in nov..Iam still in alot of pain.Is this what most Doctors do.
  • I have L4/5 and L4/5, SI injurey, possible degeneration of my disc disease. My Doctor has me going to pt and pain management,injections and so on. So for nothing is helping, in lot pain. I go back to him on nov,23. Does anyone have advice.
  • I had surgery on a herniated disk at L5/S1 in April. I was loosing function and feeling in my right leg pretty rapidly, so didn't see any other choice. Since the operation my leg has gotten much better.

    When I was deciding my surgeon did say that most docs avoid this surgery because of the level of difficulty. The difficulty being that access is hampered by the illiac crest. He had to shave some bone just to get by in my case.

    Like I said the leg is much better, unfortunately I've re-herniated the same disk a mere 8 months later and will be seeing the surgeon next week to discuss a course of action.

    My advice would be to do your research and ask a lot of questions, so that you fully understand all of your options. If you feel like you're not getting the right answer after you do that, chances are you probably aren't.
  • I did not answer sooner. I just found this question. The microD did help my leg pain but it did not help my back pain at all. I do know that anytime you have surgery at one level it puts more strain on the level above and below so there is a greater chance of having issues at other levels. I would definitely try every conservative treatment available before ever considering surgery. Surgery holds no guarantees. But if there is no other option and the pain is intolerable (that is the point that I reached) than I would have to consider surgery. I read some where that a study was done on back surgery patients and it was found that most back surgery patients had the same or worse pain at the 5 year mark than before surgery. Good luck making your decision. I know that it will be tough.
  • I had a microdiscectomy L5-S1 end of August.
    I had little choice as I ended up bed ridden.
    A trip to ER, double dose of steroids and no improvement. I had extreme numbness and loss of strength in my left leg. I actually had numbness in my perineum (groin) area so they were quite nervous about bladder/bowel nerves being impacted.

    It's 3 months and I'm doing marginally better but my situation was extreme. I don't regret the surgery b/c of my situation but do wish I had time to do the research on what to expect.

    The surgery, itself, is not that risky (true microdiscectomy is only about 1 1/2 inch incision) and low risk of blood loss.

    I wish I had made it to the doctor before the final 'incident' . . .which was a 'stretch' one morning upon waking up.

    Very personal decision. My personal perspective is that if you can consult with dr . . .try for conservative treatment while you can.
  • kumar,

    I'll be honest with you. If you have some quality of life, then try the conservative routes before having surgery. I ended up having discectomy b/c I was bed ridden on L5-S1 and L4-L5. My L5-S1 reherniated after lifting a 5 gallon bucket of water resulting in another surgery 3 years later.

    I would recommend a pain management doctor and explore the avenues you can take to manage your disc. There are plenty of therapies out there that can help! If they feel you aren't making progress, they usually will refer you out to a surgeon if necessary.

    Good Luck!

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