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Should I have microdiscectomy

Hello all. I am trying to decide if I should go through with my scheduled microdiscectomy on July 27. Background: I am a 27 yr old male. I injured my back lifting weights in January. At first I had incredible pain and some spasms. Over a few weeks the pain in my back went away but i began having sciatica. Now I am perfectly fine when I sit but have trouble standing or walking very far. I get some combination of pain and tingling from my left buttock to my foot. If I try to push myself too far, the situation gets inflamed and I have a good deal of pain for several days until things cool down and its back to my normal discomfort. I should say that unless I have aggravated it with too much walking the pain goes away when I sit. Some nights I have some trouble falling asleep because I have some pain when I lay down, but I can usually fall asleep before too long. I had x rays and an MRI done which lead to the neurosurgeon recommending the microdiscectomy. I can post my MRI results later but they basically said I had a herniated disk with annular tear around L5. My main concern is that I am in general not in too much pain. Yes my lifestyle is restricted and sometimes I can get quite frustrated at myself when trying to cut grass or change light fixtures in my new house, but it is manageable. I am worried that the surgery could leave me with more pain than I am in now. I have heard that after this surgery people often have pain when sitting. What if the surgery does not successfully relieve my pain and then I am left with pain when I stand OR sit? Does anyone have any thoughts? Thanks in advance!


  • LoobizazLLoobizaz Posts: 3
    edited 07/23/2012 - 10:02 AM
    I don't think that surgery is ever recommended, unless deemed necessary. Conservative measures such as nerve root blocks are usually tried first unless the MRI shows surgery is needed.

    I have had 2 surgeries to herniated discs. The first op at L5/S1 followed an unsuccessful nerve root block injection - that time I was in so much pain that I couldn't get out of bed without a good dose of morphine.
    The second op (7 weeks ago) at L4/L5 was an emergency as I had cauda equina symptoms and motor/sensory deficit in my left leg and foot. I did not really have much pain from this severe compression, but the numbness and muscle weakness was bad.

    The first op was a fenestration (open) discectomy without laminectomy. I had very little pain after the op and recovered very quickly with no residual symptoms.

    The second op was an open decompression/discectomy with laminectomy. I have had some recovery in 7 weeks, mainly that my left glute has re-innervated? and come back to life bit by bit. I still have numbness and weakness in lower leg/ankle and a degree of foot drop, which I am told may recover in the next 18 months. My recovery is taking longer than last time due to a dural tear during surgery, which saw me on my back for 6 days - this has meant building my muscles back up has taken a lot longer. I have had some sciatic pain since the surgery, and it is from sitting since i went back to work....but I think that this Is likely to be the nerve recovering somewhat, as the surgeon has checked me over and the straight leg raise test did not produce sciatic pain - nor has the coughing and sneezing from my recent cold........ This would suggest the sciatic pain is not from the disc again or the op site.

    I would without a doubt recommend open back surgery, it has improved my quality of life twice now..... And I will have it again when the tear/bulge at L3/l4 decides to follow the same path as the 2 discs below...........
    However, I am never going to agree to a micro discectomy, as most of the posts on this forum from people with problems following surgery, are those that have had microdiscectomies. It is a very tricky operation to get to the discs in the first place without having to go in through tiny holes - I believe that the open discectomy gives the surgeon a better view of what he is doing, and having researched this before my ops, open discectomies seem to have a higher success rate.
    My scar, which now runs through my tattoo ...... Is very thin and very neat. It was initially about 2 inches long max and I assume it is now about another inch long ( I can't really tell as the surgeon sewed my tattoo up perfectly!)

    I have had this op performed privately and on the NHS and don't think it makes a difference (except for shoddy aftercare in hospital on NHS)

    If you do decide to postpone, you will probably find that you can manage for a while, but if surgery has been recommended, your symptoms will probably get progressively worse until you have no choice.

    I had numbness and weakness for 4 weeks before I had the op, and the surgeon told me before the op that because the nerve had been compressed for this long, i should not expect these symptoms to go away - he said that the op was to prevent me becoming paralysed from the waist down (which was very close to happening) and that anything else that recovered was a bonus!
    You should maybe consider that it would be better to take action now, before you get disabling symptoms that may not recover after surgery - but I guess surgery itself carries some risk of causing these symptoms??

    You have also got to take time and care to recover after the op. Physio advice needs to be followed religiously, and you shouldnt try to push yourself .
    You have also got to want to recover - did you know that the statistics for recovery are affected (badly) by people who have had this surgery, but who do not want to recover because they are better off financially claiming workers compensation!! I was horrified to read this!! I'm not quite sure what the benefit is, as we do not have this in the UK - but surely nothing is worth your health!

    I hope you manage to come to a decision that makes you happy - and good luck whatever you decide to do.

    Please note that these are just my personal opinions from my own experience, and I am not medically trained or offering medical advice as such!

    Jan 2011 fenestration discectomy L5/S1 - total recovery
    May 2012 - decompression and laminectomy L4/L5
    MRI shows slight bulge at L3/L4, not symptomatic yet....
  • My first surgery was supposed to be the micro surgery but the surgeon got in there and ended up opening me up because my herniation was so huge. I have read on several forums that the micro is very painful compared to open back surgery. Like the previous post if the doc recommended surgery and you put it off your symptoms are likely to get worse. I am just going on what I have read and my own opinion. Any questions should be discussed with you medical team.
    Discectomies 05/08 and 04/11, fusions L4-5 Feb 9,2012 and L3-L4 June 28,2012, Staph infection washout 3/2/2012, Bulged L5-S1. SCS trial on January 17th, 2014, which was a success! Permanent SCS on February 20th.
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