Of all the various herniated disc procedures used to correct bulging discs surgically, none stand out as universally being the best way to approach invasive disc pain care for every patient. This fact calls to mind one of the many problems with back pain treatment in general: There are dozens of possible therapy plans, programs and procedures available, but the diversity of choices only serves to reinforce the simple fact that no one seems to know how to truly and definitively cure back or neck pain.
Surgery? No, this is definitely not the way to go for most patients.
This editorial will discuss the various approaches to surgical herniated disc therapy. We will look at the possible ways of correcting a herniation and detail specific examples of each type of technique.
Herniated disc surgery comes in many forms and functions. Regardless of the procedural differences, the main goal of any surgery is to relieve pain, while preserving function. Ironically, most herniated disc surgeries fail on both of these fronts, making them seemingly illogical as treatment choices.
The first type of procedure includes modalities which seek to preserve the natural disc structure, but reduce the degree of herniation. These include IDET, nucleoplasty and discectomy and are some of the least risky. They are also only applicable using strict clinical criteria, making them less useful for many patients.
The last type of procedure seeks to remove the disc and fuse the spine to account for the missing intervertebral cushion. Spinal fusion is the least enlightened and most risky of all options.
Herniated disc surgery is a real problematic issue for me, since most patients go into it with the false hope that they will be cured once and for all. While it is true that many patients do enjoy short term relief, most eventually get their pain back and sometimes it returns with twice the original fury.
Of course, many other patients are worse off immediately and fall victim to failed herniated disc surgery within days or weeks after the procedure.
Surgeons should be truthful with providing curative statistics and I mean citations of research that is gathered during long-term follow-ups from objective and credible sources. For surgeons to say that a cure is likely is an absolute lie and even promising considerable relief lasting for any length of time is contrary to statistical evidence. Most disc operations fail immediately or eventually. Period.
Those who do receive a true cure are truly blessed, but are not typical. Most patients will suffer complications, poor results or re-herniation which ruin their results now or within 7 years.
All I hope for in the spinal surgery sector is a bit more honesty and openness about what to expect from any given procedure. In some cases, I do see this and appreciate the attitude displayed by these realistic surgeons. However, I also see many surgeons promising the world and delivering nothing but chronic, hellish misery.
I can not begin to explain how the many stories you send me about failed disc surgery sicken me to the core. I completely feel for each of you who has endured this, since I was so close to this torturous conclusion myself.
Please, be warned. Things are not promising, despite what your surgeon may say. Do the research yourself. Understand the real facts and risks. Then, if you decide to go ahead with surgery, at least you can shoulder the responsibility, for a good or bad choice, without living the rest of your life in utter regret.