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Do I Need Surgery For A Slipped Disc?

If you have a slipped disc, do you need surgery, or will a conservative approach suffice? In this article we explore surgery for slipped discs in more detail.

Treating a significant disc prolapse

Not all disc prolapses will require surgical intervention. If a patient’s pain is not severe and disabling, it would be considered reasonable to follow a conservative course of action. This might involve treatment in the form of physiotherapy and painkillers.

If a conservative approach is taken, it is essential that doctors monitor a patient’s condition to ensure there is no deterioration. In the majority of patients, the pain will eventually settle within around two months. However, patients who have persistent, severe pain will potentially be candidates for surgery, especially if their quality of life is being impaired.

Surgery should alleviate the symptoms associated with a slipped disc. Unfortunately around 15% of patients will still suffer from leg pain after the operation, despite satisfactory removal of the prolapsed disc. Around five to 10% will experience a recurrent disc prolapse.

Disc prolapse and cauda equina syndrome

In some cases, a disc prolapse will require immediate surgical intervention. This will apply to those who have a large central disc prolapse that is pressing upon the cauda equina nerves.

The cauda equina nerves sits in the centre of the spinal canal and descend into the pelvis. They provide sensation in the perineum, control in the bladder and bowel, and sexual function.

If a prolapsed disc presses on the cauda equina nerves it will impair function, and may even result in the total loss of function if treatment is not provided quickly enough. This condition is called cauda equina syndrome.

Medical practitioners should be able to tell if a patient with a disc prolapse is suffering from cauda equina compression. It will be evident from symptoms such as bilateral sciatica, reduced anal tone, perineal numbness and urinary dysfunction.

If the signs and symptoms of cauda equina syndrome are present, no time should be wasted in referring a patient for an urgent MRI scan and emergency surgical decompression.

Failure to treat a disc prolapse

If medical practitioners fail to proceed with surgical intervention, even though the disc prolapse is pressing upon the cauda equina nerves, there will be a case of medical negligence. If this has happened to you, please get in touch with us to discuss your options. If we suspect there has been a breach of duty, and this would have led to a better outcome, you will be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation.

Please call us free on 0800 234 3300, from a mobile click to call 01275 334030 or complete our Free Online Enquiry for a no cost, no obligation opinion.

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