Microdiscectomy currently constitutes the standard treatment for herniated lumbar discs. Although limiting surgery to excision of fragments has occasionally been suggested, prospective data are lacking. Therefore, the objective of this study was to compare early outcome and recurrence rates after sequestrectomy and microdiscectomy.
Eighty-four consecutive patients 60 years of age or younger who harbored free, subligamentary, or transanular herniated lumbar discs refractory to conservative treatment were randomized to one of two treatment groups. Intraoperative parameters and findings were documented as well as pre- and postoperative symptoms such as pain, Patient Satisfaction Index (PSI), Prolo Scale score, and Short Form (SF)-36 subscale results. Follow up of at least 12 months was available in 73 patients (87%). Preoperative intergroup symptoms did not differ significantly. Surgery was significantly shorter in the sequestrectomy-treated group. Overall, low-back pain and sciatica were drastically reduced in both groups and most sensorimotor deficits improved. At 4 to 6 months, SF-36 subscales and PSI scores showed a trend in favor of sequestrectomy, leaving 3% of patients unsatisfied compared with 18% of those treated with discectomy. Outcome according to the Prolo Scale was good or excellent in 76% of discectomy-treated patients and 92% of sequestrectomy-treated patients. Reherniation occurred in four patients after discectomy (10%) and two patients after sequestrectomy (5%) within 18 months.
Sequestrectomy does not seem to entail a higher rate of early recurrences compared with microdiscectomy. Analysis of early outcome demonstrated a trend toward superior results when sequestrectomy is performed. Although long-term follow-up data are mandatory, sequestrectomy may be an advantageous alternative to standard microdiscectomy.