Sciatica surgery is usually considered the last resort option for people who experience particularly debilitating symptoms associated with compression of the sciatic nerve. These symptoms might include lower body pain, shooting pain, tingling, numbness and/or muscle weakness in the lower extremities. Surgery typically is reserved for those who have not been able to achieve relief through conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods or for patients who have a life-threatening neurological condition, such as cauda equina syndrome.
Doctors and patients alike are generally cautious about sciatica surgery because it can be a highly invasive procedure that typically involves some amount of risk. Traditional open spine surgery requires a large muscle-tearing incision that requires an overnight hospital stay. The recovery time after a traditional open back surgery can be a long, difficult process with risk of complications.
Risks of traditional open back sciatica surgery
Two of the more common risks of open back sciatica surgery are failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) and bone graft rejection. In addition, open back surgery carries several other risks, including:
- Thrombosis. Steps must be taken by the surgical team to prevent serious thrombosis-related problems, including pulmonary embolism.
- Infection. While somewhat rare, infection is unpredictable, and if it occurs beneath the skin, rather than at the incision site, it could require hospitalization and further surgery.
- Nerve damage. Permanent loss of neurological function could occur if a nerve becomes severed by mistake.
- Fusion failure. A false joint, also known as pseudoarthrosis, might develop if fusion does not heal as expected.
If you are considering surgery to treat sciatica, it is important to go over these and other risks with your surgeon. Ask if the procedure you are electing to undergo has a high likelihood of complication.
Minimally invasive sciatica surgery
If you are considering sciatica surgery but are anxious about the prospect of traditional open spine surgery, it is important to be aware of the full range of surgical treatment options. For information about an alternative to open back surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute.
Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that offers our patients a lower risk of complications, like the ones listed above, compared to traditional open spine surgery. By using a small, muscle-sparing incision to access the spine and decompress affected nerves, our procedures offer a shorter recovery time^ as well.
To find out if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review.*