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Lumbar Disc Surgery

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What Are Lumbar Discs?

The spinal column is made up of a series of bones that are known as the vertebra. It stretches from the base of the skull to the pelvic region. Within this column is the spinal cord, which serves to relay messages to and from the nerves to the brain.

To keep the vertebra from rubbing against each other, discs come between each bone. They also act as shock absorbers. An issue with these disks may cause discomfort or pain. The most frequent site for these types of problems is the lumbar region, which is commonly referred to as the lower back.

When Should I Have Lumbar Disc Surgery?

You should consult with your doctor about having lumbar disc surgery if your symptoms are so severe that:

  • Pain interferes with core daily functions such as standing or walking
  • Neurological symptoms, such as numbness and weakness, worsen despite treatment
  • You have a loss of control over bowel or bladder functions
  • You are unresponsive to other medical interventions

When We Recommend Lumbar Disc Surgery

If we diagnose that your complaints emanate from the discs in the lumbar vertebra, we may recommend lumbar disc surgery or discectomy. In most cases, surgery is carried out if other interventions fail to produce the desired results in set time frame.

Dr. Doerr Orthopedic Surgeon

What Conditions Make Me A Candidate For Lumbar Disc Surgery?

Your doctor may discover one of the following conditions that could make you a candidate for lumbar disc surgery.

  • Tearing
  • Herniated Discs
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Tearing

Disc injury can occur as small tearing of the outer edge of the disc (annulus). This could be because of aging, which causes varying degrees of degeneration of the spine. Some people are more affected than others, as there are cases of people in their 30’s who suffer from the condition.

Herniated Discs

This happens after the soft center of a disc pushes outward on its tough outer surface, sometimes resulting in a bulge. The effect of this is pressure on the nerves of the spinal cord that lead to the legs. Nerve pain in the buttocks or running down the leg could be a sign of a herniated disc and is known as sciatic pain.

Osteoarthritis

Other causes of disk disorders are degeneration when age causes them to shrink to the point where they could collapse. Without the disks to cushion the vertebra, they rub against each other, causing pain. This wearing down is called osteoarthritis.

Spinal Stenosis

This is characterized by the narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, bringing pressure to bear on the cord and nerves. It can result from osteoarthritis or its side effects.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

This condition is the result of joints and ligaments being unable to keep the spine properly aligned. Due to age, strain, and wearing down of the spine, its bones may move more than they are supposed to, leading to the condition.

What Are The Types Of Lumbar Disc Surgery?

Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion creates one bone out of two by a process like welding. This limits the movement that caused pain.

Lumbar Decompression

Lumbar decompression is the removal of a bit of bone to relieve pressure on the nerve, allowing it to heal. Common types of decompression are microdiscectomy and laminectomy.

What Are The Risks Of Lumbar Disc Surgery?

Infections are rare after surgery. It usually occurs in the incision area, but sometimes it can go deeper and spread to other sections. If your surgical wound becomes hot, red, inflamed, and takes longer to heal, it has an infection. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection.

Risks associated with anesthesia; most surgical procedures require anesthesia before the procedure can be carried out. The most common type is local anesthesia. It is usually administered by injecting the drug around the surgical area to make it numb. However, if the surgery is extensive and more complex, general anesthesia is used.

With general anesthesia, you are put to sleep completely during the whole process through intravenous lines. Most spinal surgeries require general anesthesia, and some people might develop problems with it. This could be due to reactions from the drugs used or even from other underlying medical conditions. Before going for surgery, make sure to discuss potential complications with the anesthesiologist.

Complications may include:

  • Damage to the nerve root
  • Building up of fluids in lungs resulting in pneumonia
  • Leakage of spinal fluid
  • Bleeding
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence
  • Persistent pain despite surgery

How Do I Prepare For Lumbar Disc Surgery?

Before the surgery, you can take several steps to make sure the process goes more smoothly.

  • Make your doctor aware of your medical history and the drugs you might be taking.
    • It may be advised to have tests for your blood and organs, and if you are female, pregnancy.
  • Be proactive in asking questions and reading literature about the procedure prior to having surgery.
  • Discuss how to prepare for blood loss in case it is an issue.
  • Stop smoking as it could interfere with the recovery.
  • Organize your home for your postoperative period when your mobility is reduced.
  • Go through a post-surgery checklist with a friend, relative or your doctor.
  • Understand the consent forms before the surgery.

Recovery And Rehabilitation

After your surgery, there are many steps you should take to ensure your recovery is smooth and safe.

  • Get someone to drive you from the hospital once you get discharged.
    • Ensure the ride home is comfortable and you are seated in an upright position with your safety belt on.
    • If you must travel a long distance, make regular stops to stand and stretch.
  • After surgery, you will be advised to avoid bending, twisting, and lifting for at least one and a half months.
    • This is to prevent any chance of a recurrent lumbar disc protrusion.
  • It will take some time for you to fully recover fully from surgery.
    • You will likely feel tired, which is why you should avoid strenuous tasks.
  • Avoid activities like driving.
    • The surgery medication tends to affect your ability to concentrate, making it difficult for you to drive properly.

Orthopedic Specialists

Jeffrey Hessing, MD and Timothy Doerr, MD have a passion for helping others. They have a combined 50 years of orthopedic excellence dedicated to the people of the Boise area. All of our surgeons are board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Doerr

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If you are in pain from an injury or dealing with a chronic condition, we are here to help.

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