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What is lumbar laser discectomy?


This is the most common operation performed to treat sciatica. Under general anaesthesia a small incision is made in the middle of the back. This is typically under an inch long. A small opening is made into the spinal canal and the piece of offending disc is removed. Not all of the disc is removed as most of the disc is still acting as a valuable “shock-absorber” within the spine. The operation typically takes less than one hour. We encourage patients to walk around as soon as possible after the procedure and some are even well enough to go home on the evening of the procedure although an overnight stay is more common. Patients usually report some moderate back discomfort for the first few days after the procedure. Depending on your occupation a period of between two and six weeks off work is usually recommended.In terms of success rates, the operation is well studied and more than 90% of patients notice an immediate relief from leg pain on waking from the procedure. In around one in 20 patients a recurrence of the herniation may occur at some point in future life. All operations carry some degree of risk and this procedure is no exception. Minor skin infections occur in one in 200 cases and more major infections in around one in 400 cases. Occasionally the lining of the nerves may leak spinal fluid and this can prolong hospital stay; this occurs in around 1 in 200 cases. The risk of major complications such as paralysis of the legs or even death is of the order of between one in 1000 and one in 10,000 procedures.