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discectomy likelihood of improving numbness
PSA2000 posted:
I have been suffering from radicular pain off and on for several months. After several spinal injections, pain improved to the point of being tolerable. However, several weeks ago, had an accute change where pain was real severe. After taking prednisone and pain meds for a few days, pain improved but numbness in calf and foot are now constant. I am still considering an microdisctecomy but want to know the likelihood of it improving numbness and even if no pain now is there any prophylatic value in having the surgery? Thanks.
dianer01 responded:
You need to let your doctor know about the numbness so it may be monitored. I would not have the surgery "just in case" because there is no guarantee it will do anything or prevent anything. These are questions best addressed to your doctor.

Have you had an MRI? and what type of doctor are you currently seeing? have you been seen by a spine specialist or your primary doc?
PSA2000 replied to dianer01's response:
I have been seeing both a spinal surgeon and a general orthopaedist. MRI showed significant disc rupture. I had pain for several months. Then, after a sudden dramatic increase in pain, the pain improved but the numbness is now constant. I understand the decompressions are not as successful in improving numbness versus improving pain but I cant find any statistics on this.
bj1208 replied to PSA2000's response:
hi and welcome tot he support group - though I believe you have posted before - not sure but your name looks familiar -

in regards to your numbness in your leg, have they ordered or have you had an EMG Nerve Conduction Test? This test usually will tell if there are any nerve damage - and depending on the results they can tell which disc(s) are affected.

regarding your MRI results - I'm not sure with yours, but a ruptured disc usually means it has splintered - mine did just that - it splintered mostly to the left S1 nerve root but there was some on the right S1 nerve root - here's a link describing ruptured discs -

this site has a lot of informative information - hope it helps -

Because my disc splintered (ruptured) I also had Degenerative Disc Disease and was a candidate for Anterior Lumbar Fusion L5-S1 - removing the disc and putting a plate, screws and cage in -

I would get a couple of opinions from either an Orthopedic Spine Specialist or a Neurosurgeon Spine Specialist - this way you can get an idea of what your treatment options are. I would make sure the surgeon(s) are spine specialist as there is a big difference.

Please keep us posted - take care - Joy
Nomaan Ashraf, MD, MBA responded:

These are all great questions.
In regards to prophylactic surgery I would strongly recommend against it. There is no way of predicting if your severe pain would return or if you would never have symptoms again so I would not recommend to a patient to have a procedure that there is a chance would never be necessary.
Also, if the pain were to ever come back you could always have the exact same procedure done in the future with no real downside.

Your question regarding numbness is a little more tricky. Surgery can help resolve numbness but it takes longer to improve after surgrey as compared to the resolution of leg pain. Also it is difficult to predict how much your numbness will improve as each individual is different and there is no way of predicting if the nerve is "bruised" and permenantly injured.For that reason there are no real statistics regarding likelihood of numbness improving after surgery. I will say my experience has been that most people do show some improvement in their numbness following surgery.

That being said if you have pain and the numbness is not tolerable it is reasonable to consider surgery but your expectations need to be tempered.

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