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Was told I needed L4-L5 diskectomy. What to expect?

Sadie83SSadie83 Posts: 18
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I hurt my lower back on September 2011. I had an MRI that showed a pretty big disc herniation. My orthopedic surgeon sent me to a pain management doctor who gave me two ESIs that didn't help. At first my surgeon said that he didn't recommend surgery because of my age (I'm 27) but I just had a follow up with the doctor again and was told that my only option now is surgery.

I would think that there are other things that we could try before going down the surgery road. Am I wrong? This was a work related injury and I can't help but feel paranoid and thinking that some how this is the insurance company wanting to rush things along so they can get rid of me. Really hope that just silly paranoia.

If I decide to do the surgery, what can I expect? Obviously the positive side is that the surgery fixes all my issues and I live happy and pain free for the rest of my life, assuming I don't do something stupid and re-hurt myself. But what are some of the bad side effects/possible complications that come along with having a procedure like this done - both short term and long term?

Also, I was told that the diskectomy would be on the right side but now looking and the handouts that the doctor gave me, as well as looking things up online; I see that they perform a laminotomy.. is that a different procedure, is it the same? Can a diskectomy be done with out a laminotomy? My doctor didn't mention that during my appointment.


  • I'm going in for a laminectomy and discectomy at L4-L5 next week because I have a herniation and bone spurs. My surgeon will go in and remove both. I had various types of shots in my back which didn't help the symptoms.

    I understand that there will be a lot of pain around the incision area because of all the layers involved. I will have a pain pump overnight in the hospital and then be changed over to pills.

    I was told that there might be almost immediate relief of some of the leg symptoms, but no promises. The nerves can take months to heal, but of course how much they will heal can not be guaranteed.

    I hope this helps some.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I had a discectomy on l4-5 and for me it was a easy procedure. Down time was 2 weeks and I was back at work. Although my job is not a strenuous one, a desk job which that is the only reason I was allowed to return to work so soon. Overnight in the hospital and released the next morning. Pain wise it was controlled very well with oral meds. I did well until my 3 month mark and then I re-herniated again. I was given the choice of a discectomy or fusion, and I once again chose the discectomy. Dont let this scare you, I have very bad disc. Good luck and remember to walk as much as possible during the recovery period. It helps to keep the muscle spasms away and promotes healing.
  • Sadie83 said:

    I would think that there are other things that we could try before going down the surgery road. Am I wrong?

    You could try traction. You lay on a table and your upper body is pulled away from your lower body. This opens up space between the vertebrates.

    Supposedly it also creates vacuum in the discs and this might help retract the extruded nuclear material back in to the disc. But I was told it's like trying to close a door but there is a towel in the between the door and the frame.

    I tried it in a professional setting (Vax-D) and had some limited success. A couple years later, after my surgeries, I did something dumb and I needed it again. This time I had a Triton DTS nearby and it got me pain-free.

    Office visits became too pricey for me. So, I got a Saunders Hometrac on eBay. I use it for maintenance 3-4 times a week, at night, right before I go to bed. It works well for me.
    Sadie83 said:

    I see that they perform a laminotomy.. is that a different procedure, is it the same? Can a diskectomy be done with out a laminotomy?
    Yes, it is a different procedure. Holes, or "windows" are cut into the lamina. These holes usually get filled in by scar tissue (not good). Logically, it also weakens the vertebrate or subjects it to increased future instability.
    Also, there is no bone covering that area anymore.

    Yes, a discectomy can be done without a laminectomy.
    Instead of cutting big windows in the bone, a small port is cut.

    I had it done transforaminally (twice). This means they went in through the openings on the sides of the vertebra. Flexible instrumentation and specialized technique makes this possible.

    The trade-off, is the surgeon cannot directly see the herniated disc with his own eyes. He must rely on flouroscopy and CT scan images as a sort of "map."

    The upside is it was outpatient, I was done in a few hours, there was no cutting of bone, ligaments tendons or muscle, and it only needs two band aids to close the approach perforations.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Iam 21 years old n had discectomy partial laminiectomy Sept 13, 2011 I had severe pain in my left leg n tingling and numbness in my foot. Totally stopd my leg pain but my back is worse now than ever my upper back pain is untolerable. Makes my ribs hurt my chest shoulders and arm and I have a 1 year old and it mkes it so hard. I won't have another back surgery unless I jus have to. But the surgery wasn't bad I got out of hospital the same day of surgery I ws doin things on my own aftr 4 weeks. But it made mine worse sadie get more opinions b4 jumping into it I now wish I had got more opinions bc now I'm in pain management and live off of pain medication and the pain not only affects me physically but mentally it deprrsses me, I never wantd my life at such a young age to be so painful.
  • for me i suffered badly with excruiating pain prior to surgery because it had been herniated for so long,crushing nerve and ligaments,post op this is nearly 3 months on i still experience painful nerve pain which has got better(less frequent)but was told could easily take 9 months to dissappear,ypur case sounds similar to me, mines started with what felt like a leg strain,but i continued my weights and press ups and badminton,then i was referred to physiotherapy then i as given mri which turned out to be misleading it showed a bulge when in fact when i moved forward it was crushing nerves and ligaments,eventually the pain is unbearable and surgery is the only option sadly
  • Thank you all for your replies and the info you provided.

    After talking it over with my parents, I've decided to have the surgery. I'm so scared and nervous! I pray that all will turn out well.

    I know some people get discharged the day they have the procedure done and some stay over night. What does staying overnight depend on? I have *never* had any type of surgery, it's giving me anxiety like you would not believe. Could I request to be kept overnight? I'm just afraid of how I will feel after the surgery and would be more at ease to stay just in case something goes wrong. (I know, I know.. I should not think like that and be more positive)

    For those of you who have had the surgery, how hard is it as far as personal hygiene after going to the bathroom? Would someone else have to help you..? Should I take a walker with me or does the hospital provide you with things you will need?
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