How Successful Are Microdiscectomies?

Back pain, kidney inflammation, ache in man's body on black background with red dotMicrodiscectomies are widely performed and very successful surgeries. They are most often used for herniated discs that are creating sciatica and leg pain in the patient. But sometimes a patient will see us at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, and he or she will already have had a microdiscectomy and now the pain has returned. 

Has the microdiscectomy failed or is something else to blame? 

What are the success rates for microdiscectomies? 

These surgeries are typically performed by spine surgeons after various conservative treatment options have been exhausted. The patient isn’t experiencing an appreciable amount of reduction in their pain, and they want to have surgery. 

These are generally considered to be highly successful procedures. Studies have shown microdiscectomies to be successful in alleviating some or all the patient’s pain in from 84 percent to 91 percent of cases. 

But for some patients, estimates range from 8 to 20 percent, their pain returns. Although pain after a microdiscectomy is considered a “failed” procedure, often the results are simply caused by another disc herniation. 

An additional disc herniation may occur directly after back surgery or many years later, although they are most common in the first three months after surgery. If the disc does herniate again, a revision microdiscectomy will generally be just as successful as the first operation, but the patient is now at a higher risk for another recurrence down the road. 

When a patient’s disc herniation continues to return in the same area, spinal fusion is the usual course of action. This will remove the entire disc and fusing the vertebrae involved will assure no further herniations can occur in that segment of the spine. 

This was the case with Tiger Woods, who had three microdiscectomies before eventually needing fusion on his L5 and S1 section of his spine. The microdiscectomies Woods had were not all on the same disc, but because pain returned, you could consider them to be failed surgeries. 

However, prior to his car accident this year, his back fusion was highly successful. The procedure had enabled Woods to fully return to competitive play, winning multiple times including The Masters. 

Treating a failed microdiscectomy 

When Dr. Tinley sees a new patient coming to us after a failed microdiscectomy, his treatment options depend on what’s behind the patient’s pain. Conservative measures are always the first option. 

But if the pain is due to a new herniation or other structural issues, revision surgery is likely necessary. These are possible surgical revisions he may use: 

  •     Repeat microdiscectomy
  •     Spinal fusion
  •     Scar tissue removal

If you’ve had a prior microdiscectomy but are again experiencing pain in the same area, you may have a new herniation. Give Dr. Tinley a call at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, (817) 916-4685, and let’s see what’s going on.

Posted in: Herniated Disc


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