Success of lumbar microdiscectomy in patients with modic changes and low-back pain: a prospective pilot study

Kingsley R Chin, Daniel T Tomlinson, Joshua D Auerbach, Joshua B Shatsky, Carl A Deirmengian
Journal of Spinal Disorders & Techniques 2008, 21 (2): 139-44

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective case controlled.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the outcome after microdiscectomy in patients with disc herniation, concordant sciatica, and low-back pain with Modic I and II degenerative changes compared with similar patients without Modic changes.

SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: The decision to perform a microdiscectomy versus a fusion or total disc replacement in a patient with a disc herniation and sciatica may be confounded by the presence of low-back pain, degenerative disc disease, and marrow and endplate (Modic) changes.

METHODS: Thirty consecutive patients underwent a microdiscectomy by a single surgeon. Group 1 consisted of 15 patients, 6 men and 9 women, with a mean age of 36.7 years (range, 21 to 48 y), with Modic I and II changes. Group 2 contained 15 patients, 9 men and 6 women, with a mean age of 34.1 years (range, 20 to 68 y), without Modic changes. The average duration of low-back pain before surgery was 25.6 months (range 4 to 120 mo) in group 1 and 17.5 months (range 5 to 120 mo) in group 2. The visual analog scale (VAS) was used to grade low-back pain and the Oswestry score was used to grade overall disability.

RESULTS: There was no significant difference in preoperative sciatica, low-back pain, VAS or Oswestry scores for group 1 versus group 2 patients. Postoperatively, all patents had improved sciatica and resolution of any nerve tension sign. Eighty-six percent of patients in group 1 versus 93% of patients in group 2 had improvements in postoperative VAS score for low-back pain at 6 months. Average improvement within each group was 67% and 75%, respectively. VAS scores for low-back pain at 6 months improved from 6.9 to 2.3 (P=0.0005) in group 1 and 6.3 to 1.6 (P=0.0002) in group 2. Group 1 and 2 had 89% and 100% of patients show improvement in postoperative Oswestry score at 6 months with an average improvement of 58% and 84%, respectively. Oswestry scores at 6 months improved from 68.7% to 28.8% (P=0.0007) in group 1 and 61.2% to 9.9% (P=0.00003) in group 2.

CONCLUSIONS: There was a trend toward greater improvement in Oswestry scores in patients without Modic changes (P=0.09). Both groups reported statistically significant improvement in sciatica, low-back pain, and disability after microdiscectomy. Microdiscectomy was therefore an effective treatment for disc herniation and concordant sciatica despite low-back pain and Modic I and II degenerative changes.


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