Anyone have back disc surgery? Any regrets/ advice?

I’m looking into it, as my back has troubled me for years. My brother had a ruptured disc ‘trimmed back’ a few years ago, because it was pressing on the sciatic nerve. He was better as soon as the anestetic wore off and he was walking all over the hospital right then and went home that day. So he’s urging me to start talking to my HMO and see if they will let me talk to a back doctor.

I’d just like any other opinions before I start so I know what kinds of questions to ask about. The doctors always seem to run the session and I want to come in with questions.

Sadly, lumbar decompression surgery has a higher rate of less than great outcomes than similar surgery in the neck. Nothing makes me more depressed than seeing a new patient come in with a history of “failed back surgery syndrome”.

I generally don’t encourage these procedures for my patients unless they:
a) Have clear evidence of disc protrusion with nerve root compression on an MRI scan
b) Have evidence of nerve dysfunction on physical examination
c) Have an abnormal electromyelogram/nerve conduction study involving the nerve root in question
d) Have gotten at least partial relief from an injection of steroids/lidocaine into the area to be operated on.

Warning: I do not do these surgeries. I’m just a primary care doc who has to decide whether or not to refer the patient to a neurosurgeon for surgical consideration, and has to deal with these patients when the neurosurgeon is done with them.

That’s my 2 cents.