Prospective cohort study.
We performed a prospective cohort study with standardized postoperative lumbar imaging every 3 months for a year then annually to assess the incidence and factors associated with same-level recurrent disc herniation
The true incidence of same-level recurrent disc herniation after lumbar discectomy is unclear. Retrospective studies have reported widely varying incidences between 3% and 18%. Prospective controlled studies are lacking.
A total of 108 patients undergoing first-time lumbar discectomy for refractory radiculopathy were enrolled. Baseline lumbar CT and MRI and standardized clinical data were assessed before surgery, and CT and MRI scans repeated 6 weeks, 3, 6, 9, 12, and 24-months after surgery and at the time of recurrent sciatica. Age, weight, preoperative disc volume, and height, volume of disc removed, and size of anular defect were compared with postoperative disc height loss and recurrent disc herniation using regression analysis.
One hundred patients (41 +/- 10 years old) were available for 1-year (93%) and 76 (70%) for 2-year follow-up (mean follow-up: 25 +/- 12 months). Improvement in all outcome measures was observed by 6 weeks after surgery (P < 0.005). An 18% loss of disc height was observed 3 months after surgery, progressing to 26% by 2 years. Eleven (10.2%) patients experienced recurrent disc herniation requiring revision discectomy a mean 10.5 months after surgery. Subjects with larger anular defects (P = 0.019) and with smaller percentage of disc volume removed (P = 0.028) were associated with an increased risk of recurrent disc herniation. Conversely, those from whom greater disc volumes were removed (P = 0.024) had more progressive disc height loss by 6 months after surgery.
Larger anular defects and less disc removal increased the risk of reherniation. Greater volumes of disc removal were associated with accelerated disc height loss. In the setting of larger anular defects or less aggressive disc removal, concern for recurrent herniation should be increased during outpatient follow-up. In this situation effective anular repair may be helpful.