Lumbar herniated disc surgery is the final treatment option exercised by many patients who have reached the end of their proverbial ropes when it comes to enduring ongoing disc-related symptoms. Chronic back pain is a very limiting and agonizing experience and many patients, although frightened by the prospect of surgery, choose an operation as a hopeful solution for their enduring torture. Unfortunately, many lower back surgeries are inappropriate, unsuccessful and often make matters far worse, since prior to the procedure, there was only suspected structural spinal damage, while after virtually any surgery, there is sure to be actual damage which may never fully resolve.
It is for this very reason that patients are often advised to consider lumbar herniated disc surgery very carefully before agreeing to any operation and research their surgeons just as thoroughly, in order to improve the chances for a successful outcome.
Lumbar Herniated Disc Surgery Indications
We rarely recommend back surgery, since statistics for long-term cures are very dismal in their outlook. This is especially truthful when it comes to disc-related procedures, such as discectomies and spinal fusions. However, I understand that at times, operations can be appropriate and also successful.
Severe spinal stenosis enacting cauda equina syndrome is a perfect example of a potential surgical emergency.
A truly compressed nerve root, displaying the classic signs of expected symptomology, including objective numbness and weakness in the anatomical areas served by the nerve, can be successfully resolved with a surgical procedure. However, surgery for virtually any other disc issues is contraindicated for most patients and rarely produces good results immediately or over time.
Remember, in a great number of patients, the disc is coincidental to the pain and not the true underlying source. This is doubly true for degenerated discs which are targeted for surgery, as opposed to herniated discs. I know so many patients who have been made immediately worse by surgery. Some never got better. I know even more patients who felt pretty good after the operation, but regained the old symptoms, or experienced related new ones, within 2 to 3 years or less.
Re-herniation is common for discectomy patients and spinal fusion creates a whole new set of structural problems with the spine.
Other patients suffer from classic examples of surgical placebo. Very few enjoy permanent resolution of pain, since the disc is typically not the real source of suffering to begin with. The surgery helps for a time, but eventually, the symptom imperative brings the agony back. This fascinating occurrence is well detailed in the medical literature for a wide range of suspected health issues, including back or neck pain.
Lumbar Herniated Disc Surgery Risks
Any spinal surgery, no matter how minimally invasive (including epidural injections), demonstrates risks. Obviously, the more invasive the operation is, the worse the risks usually become. On the minor end of the spectrum, infection, spinal fluid leaks and nerve damage are all somewhat common and can ruin any postoperative result. At the more extreme end of the risk range, permanent disability and even death may occur.
In all instances, the chances for failed herniated disc surgery syndrome are great, as curative statistics clearly demonstrate.
Be sure to discuss all the risks with your surgeon prior to agreeing to any procedure and investigate the real success statistics for yourself. I have been misinformed by many surgeons who simply seemed to make up statistics to suit them or only cited short term studies to reinforce positive impressions. Look deeper and uncover the truth about disc surgery.
For example, surgeons will cite a procedure to be a success if it accomplishes the surgical goal. A discectomy is successful if the disc bulge is removed. It does not take into account the effects of the surgery, the consequences of the surgery or the pain-relieving qualities enacted by the surgery. Sure, the disc herniation is gone, but how can you call the procedure a success if the patient now has worsened intractable pain and nerve damage?
Lumbar Herniated Disc Surgery Synopsis
Herniated discs rarely require surgery, unless they are extreme and definitively influencing a nerve structure chronically. Most disc issues are not problematic and even troublesome discs may be fine with the simple passage of time.
Surgery is traumatic to the mind and body.
Surgery is rarely needed.
Surgery is rarely successful long-term.
All these factors make surgery one of the most hazardous choices for herniated disc treatment.
Worse still is the prevalence of scare tactics utilized by so many doctors:
Occasionally, these dire predictions may be factual, but in almost every case, they are psychological warfare designed to get frightened patients onto the operating table and get the money into the doctor’s ever-growing bank account. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to get multiple opinions from different types of doctors before going under the knife. This is both wise and prudent. Be very careful when it comes to lumbar herniated disc surgery.