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Microdiscectomy: Should I do it?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi All

I have had long term (3 years) problems with the same back injury - prolapsed disc at L5S1 - all the usual sciatica symptoms right down to my feet, terrible pain. This was not too severe on the first episode, painful but manageable and unchanging with moderate treatment. Whilst stretching my hamstring I further injured it about 18 months ago. I spent a month on the floor and was unable to walk properly for about 6 months.

I took the option of 'trying' with physiotherapy and an epidural injection but the symptoms persisted. I escalated the problem with my GP and finally I got to see a neurosurgeon about 8 months ago who said that given the time I have suffered, a microdiscectomy would be the most sensible way forward - at that time I was taking anti inflammatory tablets every day for the pain.

Since then I have been on a waiting list for an op, but the condition has got steadily better.

I am now off the painkillers and with a little stretching each day the pain is manageable. I am much less flexible than I used to be and cannot ride a bike or run like I used to but I must say I don't notice my back pain most days apart from a few muscle cramps in my hamstring and the need to maintain a very strict posture. I do need to have a good 'twist and crack' each morning to loosen off - the cracking of my back happens much easier than it used to which worries me a little but I become uncomfortable unless I do this.

Today I got notification that my microdiscectomy surgery will be in 5 weeks time and I am now wondering whether I should go ahead:
- Is the condition now serious enough to warrant surgery?
- Should I go ahead anyway to make sure the problem is dealt with in a definite way?
- If I don't get the surgery done now, and the condition stays static, I may regret not having it sorted once and for all.

My main worry is that I will be taking unnecessary risk, and that, when the surgeon gets to work, he will find nothing of significance that needs attention.

Thanks for reading



  • I should also add that I am 32 years of age and normal weight, healthy, etc...
  • I had this procedure done on the L5/S1 and L4/L5 about 9 months ago. My initial symptoms before the surgery were bad enough that I had a very difficult time walking at all & my surgeon made the procedure sound minor enough so I figured why not?

    Initially, it seemed like my pain was magically gone post op. This continued for about 5 months and then the pain came back after I had built back up to walking about 5 miles per day.

    I was 36 at the time, healthy and normal weight. I now wonder if the problem ever really was those discs and if the surgery was necessary.

    If you are feeling a good deal better, you really might want to reconsider and wait. Your body may just be coping with it now on it's own. It's hard for anyone to really answer your question as we are not your doctor nor you and only you know how much pain you are in but personally, had my symptoms eased up progressively and it had gotten better instead of worse, I'd hold off on the surgery.

    Best of luck with whatever choice you make.
  • I had an endoscopic microD in Dec 07. It did help the nerve pain going down my leg but not my back pain. If I were able to do fairly well without the surgery I would avoid it. There are no guarantees with surgery. Sometimes we have no choice but to have it done but if you are able to control your pain without surgery it really is the best way to go. On the other hand you are the only one that knows if you can handle another flare up and being put back on that waiting list should your pain get worse. Good luck making your decision and please keep us posted.
  • if the disc is "extruded" or "blown out" so to speak. If that is the case then there will more than likely be free floating disc material pressing on the nerve roots. In that case, I can understand surgery being necessary.

    If you have a buldging disc that is contained, there are other ways to treat it without surgery that would retain the integrity of the disc wall and hopefully bring it back to it's original state.

    I wish I had not had my first surgery because I think it just exacerbated my issues in the long run.
  • Thanks RedDawn, JJGrey and Buckeyback fro your comments - very helpful, its nice to know there are other people out therer with similar problems willing to contribute.

    If I were confident about getting the surgery done quickly if needed then I would not hesitate to postpone, but there is a risk that I may have to go down the waiting list route again should things get worse. - a long wait!

    Buckeyback's comments are interesting, whether the damage is contained or may have 'spilled out' causing loose material to interfere with the nerve. I will get in touch with my surgeon to see if there is any information on this.

    Thanks again for comments
  • Germanandy,

    Only you and your doctor can and should make the decision to go forward or to stop anything.

    With that being said, my personal opinion (and this may be just me) is to do everything I possibly can do to try and fix the problem first without having surgery. Having surgery can be sucessful in alot of cases but is always like throwing water in the grass. Once you do it you cannot get it back up (it cannot be undone).

    I have tried everything under the sun. Well at least most everything. What has helped me the most is traction treatment, getting an inversion table, getting a stiff mattress, and a mesh office chair for when I am sitting around the house. I still deal with chronic pain but with those things, coupled with medication as I need it I have been able to stave off surgery so far. And I personally believe there will be better options for us just a few years out from now. So I am going to hold out. But again listen to your hear and your doctor. I hope either pain relief finds you or you find pain relief.

    Take care,
  • Hi All

    Just an update to let people know how I've got on with this. I decided with my doctor to get the surgery done and had the operation 4 days ago. It went very smoothly. The surgeon reported that he was able to positively identify the section of disc pushing onto the nerve and was able to cleanly remove this.

    I can tell the difference already, constant leg pain that I did not know I had has now gone, noticeable by its absence. I had obviously been living with a fair amount of pain for a while. I can also feel I have regained the balance between the two legs in terms of flexibility.

    I still have some back pain and pain associated with the surgery, but the whole thing is far better than before, it has made me realise I was coping with pain and restricted movement without realising.

    Thanks to those who posted a contribution, I feel it helped me make what has turned out to be the right decision for me.


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