Original Study

An observation of massive lumbar disc prolapse

Edmond Chun Ying U, Anupkumar Shetty, Peter Richard Scott Craig, Shashank Dattatraya Chitgopkar


Background: The aim of this study was to investigate whether massive lumbar disc herniations (LDH) can be managed safely with non-operative treatment. Whilst most LDH are treated successfully with analgesia and physiotherapy, there is little literature regarding the treatment of massive LDH. Their impressive size raises the suspicion that they may cause cauda equina syndrome and are therefore often treated surgically.
Methods: Patients were referred to our tertiary unit by either their general practitioner or the musculoskeletal service. To be included in the study, patients had to have a diagnosis of massive LDH on their initial magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and opt for non-operative treatment. Seventeen patients with a diagnosis of massive LDH with an average follow-up of 209 days (0 to 1,005 days) were reviewed.
Results: One patient was listed for surgery due to persisting radicular pain only. However, they were deemed unfit for surgery and this was therefore cancelled. One patient developed impending cauda equina syndrome and underwent urgent discectomy with no complications. All remaining patients were managed safely non-operatively with no complications.
Conclusions: We conclude that the massive LDH can be safely managed non-operatively, providing patients are examined for cauda equina syndrome and are fully educated on the need to represent urgently should red-flag symptoms develop.

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