Background. Microsurgical discectomies are an established procedure in spinal surgery. This operating technique was first used in the Department of Neurosurgery in Iceland in 1981 and has become standard operative treatment for herniated lumbar discs. There is a great variability in outcome reports regarding recurrence rate and re-operation rate. Few articles are based on follow-up of more than 10 years. This article presents the results of a 20 years follow-up study.
Methods. A retrospective study of all patients undergoing microsurgical discectomy for herniated lumbar disc, from June 1, 1981 to December 31, 1984. Outcome, based on recurrence rate, return to work and patient satisfaction was determined by a self-evaluation questionnaire, phone interviews and patient medical records.
Findings. Of the 170 patients, 134 (78.8%) were included in the study (M:F, 58:42%). Preoperative symptoms: back pain with sciatica 108 (80.6%), sciatica 20 (14.9%), back pain 2 (1.5%). Mean follow-up time was 20.7 years (19.5–22.8). Recurrence rate was 12.7%. 19 patients (14.2%) underwent a subsequent lumbar operation at a different level or side. A majority of patients 108 (80.6%) returned to previous level of work, 26 (19.4%) lost some or all working capabilities. Patient satisfaction was high, 91.1% reporting excellent (68.7%) or good (22.4%) results. 5.2% of patients rated the outcome fair and 3.7% poor. Women reported worse outcome than men, excellent M:F 74.7:60.7%, and poor 7.1:1.3%. There was no significant difference in patient satisfaction in patients undergoing additional operations or those with recurrence of the herniated disc.
Conclusions. Outcome was very good with 92.0% return to work and 91.1% patient satisfaction. The recurrence rate was 12.7% with a substantial number of cases occuring 10–20 years after operation. To conclude, microsurgical discectomies maintain a high success rate in the long-term.
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