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Is Discectomy Surgery Right for Me?


Back surgery is a serious consideration, even when less invasive techniques are used. If we're talking about disc-related pain, the procedure that may be discussed at some point is a microdiscectomy, which involves removing disc material that's irritating a nearby nerve. Today, we go over what to consider as you decide if you should have a microdiscectomy.

The Nature of Your Symptoms

Consider the degree to which your symptoms are noticeable. One way to do this is to use the familiar 1 to 10 pain scale. If you're rating your discomfort at the higher end of this scale, you may benefit from a discectomy. With a
herniated disc in the lower back area, symptoms could include:

• Pain in the lower back area
• Numbness, tingling, and general weakness that extends into the lower body
• Discomfort that worsens with certain movements

How Your Daily Life Is Affected

If symptoms from a damaged spinal disc are making it difficult or nearly impossible to get through your day, a valid case can be made for surgery. On the other hand, if you're generally able to do the things you do each day without too much interruption, you may prefer to hold off on surgery for now. In this instance, you can always consider a microdiscectomy later if your daily life is more significantly impacted.

Your Response to Nonsurgical Remedies

Before your doctor recommends a discectomy, he or she will likely encourage you to try various conservative remedies. This usually includes physical therapy, stretching routines (such as
sciatic nerve stretches), massage therapy, and other nonsurgical treatments that may be appropriate for you. Some patients with disc issues also respond well to localized injections, chiropractic adjustments, and changes to diet and exercise habits.

If you're seeing positive results from these remedies and your discomfort is manageable, a microdiscectomy isn't likely to be recommended. However, this type of surgery may benefit you if your response to nonsurgical treatments hasn't eased your discomfort. Even if your symptoms initially subsided, you may benefit from surgery if this is no longer the case. Over time, a herniated disc could shift or irritate a nearby nerve in a different way. If this happens, you may no longer respond well to nonsurgical efforts.

Your Commitment to Post-Surgery Recommendations

A microdiscectomy is generally more beneficial if you're willing to actively participate in physical therapy and take the other steps that can be good for your spine and its discs after surgery. You can get a better idea of what post-surgery recommendations will likely apply to you by discussing such things with your doctor or surgeon.

Finally, consider what you hope to achieve with surgery. As long as your expectations are realistic and you're committed to doing your best to stick to post-procedure recommendations, a microdiscectomy can be beneficial. If you still have concerns about going forward with disc surgery, talk to your doctor about other treatment possibilities.

Although microdiscectomy surgery is generally a very successful procedure, patients with a larger hole in the outer ring of the disc have a significantly higher risk of reherniation following surgery. Often, the surgeon won’t know the size of the hole until he or she begins surgery. A new treatment, Barricaid, was specifically designed to close the large hole often left in the spinal disc after discectomy. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and doesn’t require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. In a large-scale study, 95 percent of Barricaid patients didn’t undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in the 2-year study timeframe. 

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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