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Need help deciding about lumbar discectomy

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:21 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Can anyone give thoughts about how to decide to do back surgery? I've had low back pain now and again over 8 years. Last year an episode lasted 3 months. PT helped and I was back to normal, running, walking, lifting a little. In January I overdid it walking hills and x-country skiing, and had low back pain again for 3 months.
Starting in March, I had sciatica for the first time. It was sporadic,and I could still walk 3 miles (on flat) every day. Since early May, the sciatica has gotten progressively worse. I did PT for a month, and it just got worse. MRI July 3 showed L4-L5 "significant bulge" and also L-5 S-1 slight bulge. ESI on July 17 verified that the L5 nerve (going all the way to the toes) is affected, but didn't improve my symptoms. I went to NS yesterday and he also pointed out stenosis at L4-L5 and is recommending laminotomy and discectomy.
I am terrified of surgery (my mom had 9 back surgeries in the 70s that left her an invalid), but I also can't function since I can't stand or walk at all, and can only sit for brief periods.
Thank you for any comments.


  • Hi and welcome also.
    Paul pretty much said it.
    For my own decision it was live in pain or give it a shot to see if it helped. As all other treatments were tried first.
    Remember alot has come a LONG way since the 70's with surgeries. I totally understand your concern with that.
    I won't say what Paul has said over again. He is very knowledgable with his personal experiences.
    So bascially in the end it is up to you & your surgeon. If all other options have been used. Sit and talk w/ your dr discuss your concerns, possible outcomes, the percentage rate of your pain being relieved etc.
    I am at the same point of you as with the walking, standingg and sitting. So I know how you feel.
    But I also need mine redone. Not because the surgery was not perfect (love my doogie howser dr) but because I was the few percent that did not fuse. So I am going for it again. I have nothing to loose in doing so.
    I wish you the best of luck in whatever you decide is best for you.
    Again welcome and we are here for all the support we can give!!!
  • It is the best thing that I could of done. I often wonder why did I wait so long. I am in no pain, just dealing with nerve issues, much better than pain though. I am only 3 1/2 weeks post micro disc 3 levels.
    I agree with Paul and Terri...

    Good luck!

  • Elleno, Lower back pain is not always treatable or attributable to disc-related symptoms. Sciatica / Leg pain is much more addressable as it can often be relieved by removing disc material that is phsyically displacing a nerve root. As far as worrying, discectomies are nowhere near as major as many other back surgeries, and when you have imaging and symptoms and tests like the ESI pain, they can often be effective. Some people, walk out of the hospital with little to no pain left. Read up on it all as much as you can and then ask pointed questions to your MD.
    Good luck!
  • Have you been reading the thread: Are there any good fusion stories?
    (I'm not good at links here yet, but I think the above will link you)

    I know it's a fusion discussion instead of a discectomy discussion, but I think there have been some very valid points made and if I remember my research right, laminectomy and more minor procedures like discectomies have an even lower success rate?? Don't take my faulty memory's word for it though - do the research.

    Despite all that - my husband had a discectomy 7 years ago and despite a very scary drug addiction/rehab issue we had had to go through, he is well and very active, drug free and even back to his high school weight.
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