Although clinical guidelines for sciatica have been developed, various aspects of lumbar disc herniation remain unclear, and daily clinical practice may vary. The authors conducted a descriptive survey among spine surgeons in the Netherlands to obtain an overview of routine management of lumbar disc herniation.
One hundred thirty-one spine surgeons were sent a questionnaire regarding various aspects of different surgical procedures. Eighty-six (70%) of the 122 who performed lumbar disc surgery provided usable questionnaires.
Unilateral transflaval discectomy was the most frequently performed procedure and was expected to be the most effective, whereas percutaneous laser disc decompression was expected to be the least effective. Bilateral discectomy was expected to be associated with the most postoperative low-back pain. Recurrent disc herniation was expected to be lowest after bilateral discectomy and highest after percutaneous laser disc decompression. Complications were expected to be highest after bilateral discectomy and lowest after unilateral transflaval discectomy. Nearly half of the surgeons preferentially treated patients with 8–12 weeks of disabling leg pain. Some consensus was shown on acute surgery in patients with short-lasting drop foot and those with a cauda equina syndrome, and nonsurgical treatment in patients with long-lasting, painless drop foot. Most respondents allowed postoperative mobilization within 24 hours but advised their patients not to resume work until 8–12 weeks postoperatively.
Unilateral transflaval discectomy was the most frequently performed procedure. Minimally invasive techniques were expected to be less effective, with higher recurrence rates but less postoperative low-back pain. Variety was shown between surgeons in the management of patients with neurological deficit. Most responding surgeons allowed early mobilization but appeared to give conservative advice in resumption of work.