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Specific consequences of waiting for Microdiscectomy?

CrashDCCCrashDC Posts: 2
edited 12/30/2015 - 10:04 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I have spent a lot of time searching for the answer to this question but I have not found any source really address this.
I have had sciatic pain in my left leg for almost a year now due a herniated L5/S1. I am scheduled for a microdiscectomy next week. When we scheduled the surgery like a month ago my doctor warned me that the longer one waits to get the surgery, the "less effective" the surgery can be. I've also found numerous sources online saying that results for the surgery are "not quite as favorable" the longer the condition has gone on.

But what I can't figure out is, what does "less effective" or "not quite as favorable" really mean? Does it mean over time the surgery won't help resolve the pain as quickly as it would had I gotten it earlier? Or does it mean I could soon be at a point where the surgery will NEVER help and I'll be cursed with sciatic pain forever? I guess I could already be at that point now, a year after symptoms began.

It's a really important question to me because my pain has improved in just the past three weeks or so by doing McKenzie exercises and using a lumbar roll. It hasn't 100% improved, but maybe 75%. So now I am wondering if it's still worth doing the surgery. What's stopping me from canceling it though, is the fear that if I later find that my improvement stalls or if the pain goes back to much worse, by that point I will have waited too long and then there's NOTHING I can do because the surgery won't work. It just makes me so depressed to even think about that possibility. So I am basically thinking of doing the surgery as an insurance option, but maybe I am exaggerating what "not quite as favorable" really means. I just can't find a straight answer to this question.

Thanks so much for reading this.


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

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    Liz -Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 732
    Less favorable or less effective means two things.... Number one is that your spinal nerve column/roots have been crushed by your herniated disc for so long that it may take months for the swelling and irritation/pain of the nerves to calm down. In my case I waited so long for surgery that it took 4 long months post op for the nerves to finally calm down and be out of pain. Number two is that your nerves could have been compromised so long that they may NEVER fully heal and you can potentially be stuck with permanent nerve damage. In my case I have permanent nerve damage that causes a numbness across the bottom of my right foot. Live and learn...
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
  • The sooner you relieve the pressure on the nerve the better chance it has of healing. Even if you have it done immediately there is always a risk on the nerve not healing well. Once the disk is removed, the nerve will be very irritated and it takes quite some time to heal. I have what appears to be some permanent damage in my toes.
  • I could be wrong but I thought one is only at risk for permanent nerve damage if he/she is showing signs of weakness. I've never had any weakness as a symptom. Only sciatic pain.

  • Liz53Liz53 MissouriPosts: 142
    I had horrible leg pain for about 5 months prior to my last microdiscetomy, until it was discovered that I had an extruded disc fragment. It took a long time until the nerve healed after the surgery. Now I have a new herniation and have been tested for loss of strength which I also was told would be an indication for more immediate surgery. I have felt this way for about 1 1/2 months and have tried the conservative route. Now I will probably schedule surgery as I continue to have horrible pain.
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