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Deciding about Microdiscectomy

alex721aalex721 Posts: 9
edited 03/26/2015 - 7:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone,

I am deciding whether or not it's worth going through with a Microdiscectomy surgery, and was hoping to hear some of your thoughts.

My story:
I'm a 26 year old male, fell on some icy pavement about a year ago and have had sciatica-like pain while sitting ever since, primarily in my buttock. Most of the time the pain is not terrible, but some days it really affects my quality of life. I've done several months of PT for this, but overall, I still find that the pain comes back, especially when driving / commuting, sitting down for long meals at restaurants, etc. Recently two really bad flare-ups over the course of a few weeks, and have been working from home since. I got an epidural steroid injection which has brought me back to almost the level of pain I was at before these flare-ups.

My MRI shows an 8mm disc herniation at L5/S1 that is compressing the right descending nerve root. I spoke with two spine surgeons, both of whom offered to do the surgery if I wish. I ended up scheduling a date two weeks from now with the second surgeon, who said that he has done thousands of these and has seen good results. He also mentioned that long-term, I will have the same result with or without surgery, but that it could take many months or years with the non-surgical approach.

Overall, I would say may pain is manageable, but it has definitely caused me a lot of stress and frustration over the last year. In addition, I fear that by not doing the surgery, I'm risking having more and more of these flare-ups over the course of my life, and I don't want to go through that pain again.

I know many people on here have had much worse symptoms before going through with the surgery, but I'm not sure I want to wait until that point. What do you guys think? Am I rushing into this surgery, or is it a reasonable solution given the length of time I've dealt with this problem? Has anyone been in a similar situation?


  • But for me, the flare ups became more frequent and painful to the point that I no longer had a choice.(micros disectomies at s1l5 and l 4,5...among other surgeries) I don't regret having the surgery, but I do regret not seeing a dr for every flare up as I wonder if I could have had more non invasive treatments available.

    Best wishes as you decide!
  • im a lil younger than you, and it's hard to deal with this at our age. as long as you trust your surgeon who said he ahd good results i would try it man.
    btw, im considering getting an epidural, but im scared of it lol...i notice you say it helped, was it a permanent fix? did it help with back or leg pain o?
  • Hi formerweightlifter,

    The epidural definitely took my pain from an acute 7/10 to about a 2/10 over the course of a week and a half. It has only been ten days, so I'm not sure how long the relief will last, but it definitely helped. I would highly recommend you do the epidural with a board-certified pain management doctor who specializes in these injections (does them all day long). That will maximize the chance that it will be effective. Also make sure they use flouroscopy, which is an x-ray machine that lets them see where they place the needle.

    The injection itself was only a 10 minute procedure. I asked to have IV sedation and fell asleep through the whole thing. I woke up after the procedure and did not feel much pain from the injection after that. The steroids however take a few days to kick in. I did not feel any effects until about day 4 or 5.

    I'm definitely sitting on the fence about the surgery. On the one hand, I feel that I can mostly sit, walk around, etc now even if there is some pain. I'm scared about the surgery because since my symptoms are not bad now, I don't want to risk the chance that surgery would make them worse. On the other hand, I will feel like an idiot if this flares up again a week from now and I have to wait another month to get surgery.
  • formerweightlifterfformerweightlifter Posts: 196
    edited 03/26/2015 - 2:21 PM
    thanks for the info...so the epidural didnt just help the legs it helped the back too?
    i can relate, there are tons of people worse than me on these forums, and i was at PT the other day and saw this woman who looked like every move she made was killing her...was scary to see. kind of like how you fear the surgery, i fear the sides of the epidural....sometimes our pain never gets better, but it's so easy to get worse man. what state are you in? i'm looking for a good shot dr lol.
  • The shot helped me primarily with leg and buttock pain. I was not having much back pain directly. I live in California, and mostly was using a combination of Yelp and other sites to find a good doctor. Find one who is board certified and fellowship trained.
  • I opted not to do an epidural at first because my surgery was to be very easy back to work with in 6 to 8 weeks at most.... 11 months later. Micro and 2 epidurals later....don't just base your decision on the dr , the outcome, but as questions about the procedure the medicine they are using ...be your own advocate research find out what epidurals they are using research it on the drug site,

    Good luck keep us posted this is what we are here for everyone's situation is different but we all have a few things in common,pain free life, and a good quality of life !!!!!!!!
    This can't be happening
  • Hi. I had my L5/s1 microdiscectomy 11 days ago.
    I had a catastrophic event (both my consults used this term) in July 2014: bedbound for a month and on a cocktail of drugs just to crawl to toilet etc. Both consultants advised surgery, sooner rather than later, but in the end I decided to postpone (a very anxious and nervous person!). In my case so much disc had erupted that they feared I would become incontinent...im nearly 40, so was not keen on this bleak outlook!
    In my case surgery has been amazing: wound has healed perfectly, minimal pain, but most importantly I can go walking...yesterday and today for over an hour! I hadn't been able to do this since June last year.
    The op was meant to take 90mins but once inside they found the rupture had attached itself to a nerve, so I was under for 3hrs.
    I'm mum to a 2 and 3 year old, and was entirely reliant on my husband to do everything: I now see a brilliant future for us all with me participating, rather than just watching from the sidelines.
    If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. Claire
  • I had my first one L3L4 with laminectomy in October of 2011 after ignoring ongoing back pain for 20 years. The pain became too much to handle and I couldn't walk. Felt great afterward most of the pain was gone. I still had pain every once in awhile but it wasn't too bad. Then in December of 2014, I picked up both of my toddler nephews at the same time, so about 60 pounds total. The next day, I was in pain. I tried to ignore it but it just got worse. I had a feeling I had herniated another disc. Saw my orthopedic surgeon on Feb. 25. I had herniated L4L5 and had surgery 11 days ago. No more pain in my legs! I say have the surgery before your pain gets to be too much.
  • I loved life after my discectomy. After the swelling subsided, and about 4 months of physio, i was 2 years without pain. Blew my disk again standing at work. Now im going for a fusion. Discectomies are great, if they last.
  • OverItAllOOverItAll Posts: 89
    edited 03/30/2015 - 4:41 PM
    Then I would talk to your neurosurgeon about possibly postponing. My neurosurgeon wouldn't even consider surgery unless the shots had no lasting affect less than a month and required going through at least two rounds. The goal is at least six months and then have another round, which can also potential give your body a chance to kick in and do what it needs to do. I had one last two glorious pain free weeks, which is when he knew my choices were surgical(wound up being a dime sized bone spur compressing my s1 nerve)

    I wish I had gone in to see the doctors early enough for the shots to be effective, because I may have been able to avoid three surgeries with an end at fusion. Also, I know you said you opted for sedation, but if you can handle back pain, epidural shots are nothing(in my experience, have had apx6-7 in the past few years) I try to take pain meds before, if approved, to take the edge off but it was never worse than the pain I was in 24/7.

    If I could go back and give myself advice, it would be avoid surgical options if less invasive ones give me relief, ultimately this is something only you and your doctor can decide. Best wishes!
  • epidurals scare me...i know surgery is scary too, but atleast it has the potential to cure. id like to try any epidural, but id never forgive myself if i got paralized! thinking the same of a facet block
  • alex721aalex721 Posts: 9
    edited 03/31/2015 - 3:01 PM
    Thanks everyone for your advice! We decided to postpone the surgery another 6 weeks or so to see how much improvement I get without it. If things get better, I'll cancel, and otherwise will go through with it.

    formerweightlifter - I don't think the epidurals have a high risk of paralysis, especially if they are using fluroscopy to guide the needle. I would guess that there is a higher risk of that with surgery but even then it should be super low.
  • No, right now I am giving it about a month + physical therapy to see how much I improve. If things stay the same or get worse, then I am going to just go with the surgery.

    FYI, if you are afraid of the pain during the shot itself, you can ask for IV sedation. That is what I did and I didn't feel a thing. I think the shot is safer than the surgery as a first step, and it definitely helped take down the acute pain I was having.
  • I chose surgery over epidural because there are very severe side effects from epidurals just as the risks are with surgery, but my herniation had separated itself from the disk it was to be a very clear procedure. Go in remove the disc fragment from the nerve and be done. In 6 weeks Id be back to work... The epidurals are bandaids and not always covered by insurance and can cost up to $4,000 for just the injection alone, and if you go under for 15 mins there is also anesthesia bills as well. I know you can't put a price on our health but these are all things some of us must consider. If anyone here has read my story you'll know what i'm talking about. I'm out 10 months now and am having right sided pain which has to be considered a part of the surgery because after my surgery I started with right sided pain...and did the epidural and have been worse ever since...RESEARCH....ask what drug they will be using for the injection, some are not FDA approved, and there are many cases of paralysis with epidurals as there are with surgery. Dr uses too much force punctures your spinal canal med get in there blood gets in there any foreign matter can lead to nerve damage and paralysis. I am going to post a new "chapter" to how did I get here...and trust me everything I've said is the abridged version, and I'm being guarded with what I say...and there has been a ton more i've been thru in 10 months then i have and some patients have in years, because who admits to mistakes??? But that will be my next post to follow if so inclined "Surgery w/ Fusion, 50/50 chance"....
    This can't be happening
  • alex721 said:
    No, right now I am giving it about a month + physical therapy to see how much I improve. If things stay the same or get worse, then I am going to just go with the surgery.

    FYI, if you are afraid of the pain during the shot itself, you can ask for IV sedation. That is what I did and I didn't feel a thing. I think the shot is safer than the surgery as a first step, and it definitely helped take down the acute pain I was having.
    alex, im not afraid of the pain of the shot, im just afraid of them going slightly too far and causing paralysis or arachnoiditis(which is 100s times more painful than a disc herniation and incurable) i also am not sure if it will cure anything. so your pan has still been mostly cleared? i know you recently got the shot? for me, id be taking it for back pain, i dont get sciatica like you fortunately.
  • i wonder if facet blocks are safer..i was thinking my pain could be facet related.
  • FYI, wanted to share an update since I know people often drop off the forums after they are doing better. Ultimately had the surgery last week. Was in and out of the hospital same day and going for walks the day after. One week out now and feel great! Some minimal pain at incision site, and very occasionally get residual pull or tingling on the nerve like I did before, but that is likely due to the nerve still being inflamed. Overall, I would say my symptoms are 90% percent better already. Hoping for continued improvement as time goes on, and definitely hoping for no re-herniation! Hope having a positive story helps for anyone who is planning to do the surgery! Let me know if you have any questions.
  • Had mine 9 days ago...already feel like a million bucks. Still have some numbing but it will go away with time and swelling that goes down!
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