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Most cases of lumbar disc herniations can be treated conservatively without surgery. However, when the patient’s pain is intractable, conservative care has been ineffective, the patient has had severe symptoms for an extended period of time, and/or if a neurologic deficit is developing (weakness in the leg muscles), then surgical intervention is recommended.
Nearly always, Dr Ibrahim performs lumbar disc surgery for a herniated disc through a “minimally invasive” technique. Minimally invasive surgery uses small incisions and tiny specialized technology such as endoscopes (small video cameras). These new techniques and technologies have been pioneered in the Denver community by Dr Ibrahim and typically result in quicker patient recovery times than traditional techniques, as they reduce trauma to soft tissues and minimize blood-loss during surgery.
Typically, the disc space to be operated on is localized with a guide wire and a fluoroscope (portable, live, X-ray machine). Once the disc space is identified, a 1.5 cm incision is made over the guide wire and a small tube is placed down to the spine. Dr Ibrahim then removes a small portion of bone in order to access the spinal canal. At this point a microscope is brought in to increase visualization. The nerve sack is gently “swept” out of the way, and the herniated portion of the disc is removed. The entire operation typically takes 35-45 minutes.
At South Denver Spine, patients typically feel much better the day that surgery is performed! Usually the individual complains of back pain at the incision site, but the leg pain is often immediately improved after surgery. The patient is encouraged to walk within hours of the procedure and oftentimes goes home the same day or within 24 hours of the procedure being performed.
While at home, the patient is encouraged to increase activity as he/she feels comfortable. Typically, postoperative back pain becomes substantially reduced within a week after surgery. It is not uncommon for the patient to have occasional leg pain similar to that prior to surgery as the nerve becomes “used to” being free. This usually resolves completely within weeks of the surgery.
The patient is usually comfortable enough to return to normal activities within two weeks of surgery. Typically, individuals with non-manual occupations are off pain medications and ready to return to work in some capacity within two weeks of the surgery. Though there is considerable patient variation, recovery by four weeks is generally complete. Patients are encouraged to avoid positions of “loaded flexion” (bending at the waist while carrying a heavy weight) until about six weeks after surgery.
Lumbar disc surgery is an extremely successful surgery which results in greater than 90% good or excellent results. At South Denver Spine, your health is our primary concern. Dr Ibrahim and staff are eager to see you return to a healthy, pain-free, and active lifestyle. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about your spinal condition or treatment.