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microdiscectomy -- yay or nay?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi - I know there are several similar postings, but I am just so freaked that I wanted to see what advice people could give me --

I am scheduled for a microdiscectomy in a week and a half and am so distressed about it that I might cancel. I was OK with it until the doc doing my pre-op work this week (a new doc subbing for my primary care md, a guy I'd never met) started really questioning my decision to have it, telling me it was major surgery and have I thought about hypnosis, chiropractors, and asking my dreams to heal me (this doc gave me this advice without looking at my MRI or even asking me about it, so he was just talking off the cuff, btw, but it still upset me.) My point is that now I am so distressed and emotional about it that I just thought I'd share my story and see if anyone had any similar experiences or advice for me.

I herniated my L5-S1 in mid to late Sept. Actually I think I herniated it earlier and just herniated it worse in Sept. I was in PT for back pain from July-Sept until it got so bad I could not walk a couple of days. MRI, then neuro who said it is about a 15 mm herniation. Lots of sciatic pain. Out of work for two months. Two steroid epidurals -- some relief but not much. Tons of numbness in foot, bottom of leg, even saddle area. Today, three months later it is much better. Still pain but no meds besides advil, and baby toe still numb (since Aug). Still can't go up on my tip toes on that leg though. And limp slightly when I walk due to whatever reflex is messed up. So of course now that I am upset and scared I think I am doing better and maybe I don't need this surgery after all. But I'm in my 30s and want to have an active life and children in my future, and I'm not sure how easy that would be as I am. :(

Anyway I keep going back and forth as to whether to go through with it or not. Of course everyone I tell freaks and says no way, don't do it, it will make it worse, you'll be doomed to a life of one surgery after another etc.

Thanks for reading my rambling, I just hoped someone could relate and share their stories, whatever side (surgery or no) they are on. It will help. Thank you.


  • What kind of Doctor would even say this? Is he a real Doctor? Also, going to a chiropactor if you have a herniated disk could cause a LOT more damage so I would advise NOT do that.
    I can't believe a real Doctor would suggest all this without looking at the MRI or questioning the reason you are going in for surgery.

    How much pain are you in? If it is affecting your life to the point where you can't work or function and the PT and ESI has not helped, then maybe the surgery will.

    I had a micro-d in March. It was a very painful surgery for me. I was in pain for 2-1/2 years from a rear end car accident. My back did not get better, after 3 ESI and PT. I was pretty much miserable but still worked full time have teens etc.

    I am finally doing better but it has been a long recovery for me. I know how I was before surgery and now...I am glad I had the surgery. I can stand longer than 10 minutes, sleep much better, etc.

    Do you have pain that keeps you from sleeping? In addition if you have numbness, if you wait you could have permenant nerve damage. I wouldn't put much faith in a Doctor that did not even look at your MRI or your history. Go with your own gut instinct..

    What do you think and feel about the surgeon? Does he/she have a good reputation? How many micro-d's has he/she done?
    That is the Doctor you need to listen to and have confidence in, the surgeon...Not someone who knows nothing about you or your history.
    Good luck to you, let us know what you decide..
  • I would get a second opinion if I were you. If not then ask your Dr. if you waited and didn't get the micro would you suffer nerve damage? Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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  • If the only damage you have to your spine is a squished nerve root that they can repair by taking out this part of your disc, I'd say go for it. In my case, I had a microdiscectomy. It brought me great relief, but because I had several other damaged discs, some curvature of my spine, etc., it actually caused things to get a whole lot worse six months later. Hopefully, you've had several good opinions given. I agree that wishing and hoping will not cause the pain to go away. Just make sure removing that piece of disc will not cause other things to collapse.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Surgery is a serious deal and your concerns are certainly warranted, if not perfectly natural.
    The fact you are searching out info is a step in the right direction to achieving what is right for you.

    15mm is a huge herniation.
    With what you describe, there may be consequences to not getting the compressions off those nerves.

    Try to formulate a list of questions and then try to get them answered to satisfaction by appropiate profesionals.

    What I did was consult with a bunch of different spine surgeons and did many many hours of research.
    This allayed most of my fears and concerns.

    While I realized I could never know everything, I informed myself as best I could and made my choices.

    I am at peace with my microdiscectomies at L4-L5 and L5-S1.
    I chose a particular surgeon that does a particular procedure that didn't require removal of bone or cutting of ligaments/muscle.

    You have many options and choices. It takes due dilligence but it will be worth your while to put yourself in the position of being the shot-caller.

    On a personal and less formal level, if it was me(I'm 37), I would get the procedure that would do the least damage and offer the best chance for being pain free.
    (knowing that there are no guarantees)

    I likened my case to that of a broken arm. No amount of accupuncture, massage, PT, wishful thinking, hypnosis, or medications would ever fix it.
    My herniations were smaller than yours (13mm).

    Sorry you're in pain, pain sucks. I know, believe me, I know.
    I wish you the best of luck and let us know what you decide.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Hello Teekaleek,

    Teekaleek, you have received SUPERB thoughts, advice and wisdom from those who have responded above. EXCELLENT!!!!

    So sorry that you had this so called fill in person give you all that garbage. Can't be a doctor. He is wacko!!! What concerns me is what doctor would have a person like that fill in for him. YES, as PhoenixTears said - stay away from chiros.

    I'm with Charry - DEFINITELY get a second opinion. In fact I'd suggest you do as Paul did and "consult with a bunch of different spine surgeons". Isteller also mentioned getting several opinions. in addition do your research.

    Search for the very best spinal surgeons (with MD after their names) that you can find. Then make an appointment with the one at the top of your list. Next make an appointment with the next doctor on your list. And if the docs DON'T look at the MRIs you bring along, then eliminate them.

    I really hope what we have shared with you helps and gives you confidence that you will be able to make the right decision for yourself.

    I wish you the very best.


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  • How nice to log in this morning and see such thoughtful and helpful answers -- thank you all. I think my biggest problem is that I'm not in a ton of pain, or at least not as much as I was, and that makes me feel that I might not need it. But the surgeon said that pain can subside when your nerves "burn out" after being irritated for so long. I guess the proof might be in the limping and neuro problems that seem to be going on.

    Thanks for your frankness, PhoenixTears, the docs do sorta intimate that this sugery is no big deal and it's good to realize that it very well might not be a piece of cake. It is surgery after all. :S

    My surgeon says he's done 5,000 of these and seems to have a pretty good reputation, but it's an HMO and I really have no choice if I wanted someone else to actually perform it. HOWEVER, like charry & RichT suggest, a second opinion would likely make me feel much, much better about it. I'm not concerned about this surgeon's ability, just if it's something I want to do or not. I think I'm also scared about being "set back" -- I have come so far in three months and I think that I am thinking that surgery is going to put me back to day one, where I thought I was going to die! But rationally I know that won't be the case.

    lsteller -- I really liked the part about "wishing and hoping" it'd get better -- you are exactly right. What good, practical advice.

    And Paul -- superb advice. That makes total sense to just arm yourself with as much knowlege as possible. It doesn't make sense to hem and haw and be scared. Thank you for your advice. And isn't 13 mm pretty huge too, Paul? Were yours in the same location/did you have any similar symptoms or limping etc.?

    I can't help but think of a posting I saw somewhere here saying something along the lines of "if you're making excuses and convincing yourself that you can live with the pain as it is, then it's time for surgery."

    As far as that doctor goes, I know I live in California and all, but asking my dreams to heal me? Really? I was stunned since this is a traditional doctor's group and this was the "new guy" filling in while they were all out for the holidays. The more I think about it, it seems irresponsible now that he'd say those things without at least looking at my MRI.

    Thank you all for such helpful and well thought out replies. I will stay around on these boards and let you all know either way what I do. I have found the post-op must haves and advice to be great -- if this is the route I go I have already found great tips here. Thanks everyone. =D>

  • My 4-5 was like a massive, sharp knife stabbing me in the center of the back with minor right leg pain.
    Standing and walking were extremely painful. When I did, it was at a 45° angle. Couldn't go any further.
    Over the next 9 months, while I researched, I didn't notice that the right leg had shrank.

    L5-S1 was this overwhelming, dull burning ache in the left foramen area. The left foot started to not respond to my commands.

    I love what you said about the making excuses to live in pain.
    Quality of life is so important.
    :H from SoCal :)))
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I decided to have the a microdiscectomy last year because the pain was unbearable to me and it drastically affected my quality of life. I tried all conservative treatments for a few weeks and they didn't help. My back pain was constant and the sciatica was severe; I had terrible muscle spasms that would make one scream. My surgeon said I was a surgical candidate and that I would benefit from this operation.
    This is a difficult decision and there are no guarantees it will take away the pain. It didn't for me, and later on I went on to have a fusion that didn't help either. Currently I suffer from chronic back pain and persistent sciatica.
    I pray that your situation will be different and if you decide to have surgery, I wish you all the success in the world.
  • Meydey that sounds awful. I'm so sorry to hear that. Ugh! Thank you for the kind words though, and I'll let everyone know what does (or doesn't) happen.
  • I had a discectomy in early Sept, a large entail shaped piece had spewed out of my L4/5 and gone down beyond my S1/L5.
    I had the droopy leg & was in rather a bit of discomfort to say the least.
    Like you I was very apprehensive of the knife! After the op it was like the pain switch had been turned off, great feeling!
    3 1/2 mths later I am back at work, still on restricted duties but getting stronger all the time. I work in the mining industry.
    I have focused on lots of walking, swimming & keeping at the core body exercises.
    So far so good, my body tells me when I've pushed it too far!
    I'm glad I didn't hestiate with getting the operation done, as I think the nerve damage could have been an issue with time.
    There's lots of good info on here, but in the end its you who makes the decision of what to do!
    Good luck and hope you get it sorted for the better.

    John R
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