Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy

By | January 12, 2015

Well as some of you may know, I am scheduled for my operation tomorrow. I have mixed feelings about the operation. I am somewhat anxious, however excited at the same time. I’ve been waiting 3 years to undergo surgery at The Townsville Hospital. Now it is finally here, I am somewhat overwhelmed.

I spent almost all day Friday at the hospital seeing the nurses, anaesthetist, and having my blood drawn. I was asked many questions, and given some information as to what the procedure involves.

After a lot of back and forth on the waiting list, my local GP advised me to see Dr Eric Guazzo about 12 months ago. Upon seeing him, and having MRI scans done, he advised to try a cortizone injection into my spine to see if that would alleviate any of the symptoms. It was a painful needle, however it didn’t resolve it.

I will now see Dr Guazzo tomorrow before surgery, along with the nurses and anesthetist to be asked many questions again, and be given more information about the surgery.

The surgery itself seems proficient. The surgeon will make an incision about an inch long in my back, then use an x-ray to push a tube retractor inside through the muscle and above the lamina where my L4/L5 vertebra is. Then a portion of the lamina, bone, ligament and other materials to be able to see the correct discs, all via microscope.

Then, he will remove the disc fragments or prolapsed disc from my spine, then remove the retractor and stitch me up. Simple, right? I’ve watched a few videos about the surgery and it seems like a common surgery, however it doesn’t make me feel less anxious.

The following video is what I will be having done, L4/L5 left discectomy.

Dr Eric Guazzo is an amazing neurosurgeon, and I have all confidence in him performing the surgery. He is the Director of the Department of Neurosurgery for North Queensland, Associate Professor at the James Cook University Medical School, examiner for the fellowship in neurosurgery and a few other amazing things.

His medical qualifications also include:

  • Medical degree from the University of Queensland (MBBS,1982)
  • Fellowship in Neurosurgery from the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS,1991)
  • Fellowship in Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons of England (FRCS,1992)
  • Medical Doctorate from the University of Queensland (MD, 2001)
  • Advanced Diploma in Business Management (2010)

Now, we get to the parts that I wish I didn’t read. They’re somewhat uncommon, but they are still there.

Common risks (more than 5%)

  • Infection
  • Minor pain, bruising, infection from IV cannula

Less common risks (1-5%)

  • Bleeding
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke/Stroke like complications
  • Nerve root injury – weakness in foot movement
  • Bladder/bowel problems
  • Injury to cover of spinal cord
  • Ongoing back/leg pain with numbness due to nerve damage
  • Recurrence of disc prolapse
  • Instability of the spine
  • Deterioration of other discs
  • Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid
  • Visual disturbance
  • Areas of lungs may collapse
  • Wound infection, chest infection, heart and lung complications
  • Blood clots

Rare risks (less than 1%)

  • Paraplegia
  • Injury to major blood vessels
  • Possibility of operating on wrong discs
  • Death

So there it is. Surgery tomorrow, restless sleep tonight, and hopefully wake up with no pain in my back (aside from stitches) and the surgery of course.

If anyone reading this has every had a lumbar discectomy, please comment and let me know how it went. Did it resolve the sciatia like symptoms? Did it become worse?