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How to Know if a Second Discectomy Is Right for You


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If you have previously undergone a discectomy to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord and you are still experiencing persistent pain, your doctor may recommend a second discectomy to relieve your symptoms. However, before making the decision to have an additional surgery, it is important to understand what is involved in having more than one discectomy, the potential risks and benefits, and alternative treatments that may be available. This article explores the issues surrounding a second discectomy to help you make an informed decision.

What Is a Second Discectomy?

A second discectomy is a repeat surgical procedure to remove herniated disc material that has reoccurred after an initial discectomy. The procedure is similar to the first discectomy, but it may involve different approaches depending on the location of the herniation and the surgeon's preference. 

The second discectomy may be less invasive than the first one. Many doctors now use minimally invasive techniques to perform microdiscectomies, which can reduce recovery time and decrease the risk of complications. If your original procedure was an open discectomy, you may be able to opt for a less invasive microdiscectomy for your second surgery.

Why Consider a Second Discectomy?

A second discectomy may be recommended if you are experiencing persistent low back pain or discomfort in your back or legs after your initial discectomy. This may indicate that the disc has reherniated or that there is another issue causing your symptoms. If the initial discectomy was not successful at relieving your symptoms, a second discectomy may be recommended to remove additional herniated disc material or address any additional underlying issues.

What Are the Potential Benefits?

When considering whether to have a second discectomy, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits carefully. Surgery is never a guaranteed cure, and there are still risks associated with any medical procedure. However, for some patients, the possible benefits of having a second discectomy outweigh the risks. The potential benefits of a second discectomy include:

  • Relief of symptoms – The primary benefit of a second discectomy is relief from persistent pain or discomfort in the back or legs. For some people, the results of their first discectomy may not last, and they may experience a return of symptoms such as radiating pain or sciatica down their legs. A second discectomy may reduce or eliminate these symptoms.
  • Increased mobility – If your pain or discomfort is preventing you from engaging in physical activity, a second discectomy may improve your mobility and allow you to return to your normal activities.
  • Improved quality of life – For many patients, the relief of persistent pain or discomfort can lead to improved overall quality of life.

What Are the Potential Risks?

As with any surgical procedure, a second discectomy carries certain risks. The potential risks of a second discectomy include:

  • Infection – As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection. While this risk is minimal when a discectomy is performed properly, it is still something to be aware of. If an infection develops, it can lead to further complications and delay your recovery time.
  • Nerve damage – There is a small risk of damaging a nerve during the procedure, which could lead to numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs.
  • Recurrence of symptoms – The primary risk associated with having a second discectomy is that the outcome of the surgery may not be as successful as the first. In other words, you may experience little to no relief from your symptoms after the procedure.
  • Failed back syndrome – Failed back syndrome refers to persistent pain or discomfort following spinal surgery. This risk is higher for those who have undergone multiple discectomies.

What Are Some Alternatives to a Second Discectomy?

Before deciding to have a second discectomy, it is important to consider alternative treatments that may be available. These conservative treatments may include:

  • Physical therapy – Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles in your back and improve your posture, which can reduce your risk of reherniation and boost your overall quality of life.
  • Medications – Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can reduce pain and inflammation in the back.
  • Chiropractic care

Overall, it is important to talk to your doctor before deciding if a second discectomy is right for you. Every person’s situation is different, and only your doctor can help you decide if the potential benefits outweigh the risks. If you do choose to proceed with a second discectomy, make sure to follow all post-operative instructions given by your doctor to maximize your chances of success. 

Although discectomy surgery is generally a very successful procedure, a hole is left in the outer wall of the disc. Patients with a large hole in the outer ring of the disc are more than twice as likely to reherniate after surgery. A new treatment, Barricaid, which is a bone-anchored device proven to reduce the likelihood of a reherniation, was specifically designed to close the large hole often left in the spinal disc after microdiscectomy. In a large-scale study, 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in the 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment or how to get access to Barricaid, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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