21 Feb Lumbar Decompression Surgery Found To Have A Good Outcome Long Term
Millions of Americans suffer from back pain every year. In fact, 4 out of every 5 people will be affected by back pain at some time in their lives. Most of the time this pain will pass, but some are left with longer-term intractable pain. It’s estimated that somewhere between one third and two-thirds of the nation is suffering from chronic pain, and a significant proportion of this can be attributed to back pain. Many of these patients rely on opioids to get through their everyday lives, but with an opioid epidemic raging across America there’s a desperate need to evaluate alternative and crucially more definitive therapies. For many, surgery is that definitive option. However, the prospect of surgery can often be daunting with the risk of complications and without knowing the long-term outcomes. A recent study should put some of this unrest to bed, as a specific technique of back surgery known as a percutaneous lumbar decompression has been shown to have good outcomes when patients were followed up a year after going under the knife.
What is percutaneous lumbar decompression and why might I need it?
Many patients with chronic back pain are found to have a slight disc herniation in the part of your spine known as the lumbar region. The “discs” of your spine are a bit like shock absorbers. When you jump or absorb a shock, these discs provide a spongy surface for the bone of the spine to press against. But as we age the cartilage that makes up these discs begins to break down. In some, it can bulge out and compress nerves coming out of the spinal cord. These nerves often transmit pain signals into the spinal cord and onto the brain. By pressing on these nerves false signals are generated creating the painful sensation of back pain when no injury is present.
The problem with this pain is it’s incredibly hard to treat. Your usual over the counter medications like aspirin just won’t do the trick. For many, conservative treatments fail and back surgery is the only option. The surgery involves a needle inserted into the bulging disc, the surgeon then effectively “sucks out” some of the bulging disc. This reduces the bulge and stops it compressing on the nerve.
Does the surgery work?
There have been a number of studies showing a good outcome for the procedure. However, a recent study published in the journal Pain Medicine looked at long-term outcome of the procedure. They followed 70 patients at one and eight years. The pain was reduced by 50% in around 47% of patients at one year and 29% of patients at eight years. They also used a measure of disability (known as the ODI disability index) and found that at one year 43% of patients had a 30%+ ODI score and 26% at eight years.
These results suggest that the procedure has a good long-term effect and a significant proportion of these patients were still having significant pain relief almost eight years after the surgery. When comparing these results after one surgery to eight years of medication, many patients may now opt to contact a specialist clinic to inquire further about the procedure.