Lumbar degenerative disc disease diagnosis surgery for an injured worker is usually a last resort after a trial of conservative treatment options. Studies show people with degenerative disc problems tend to gradually improve over time, provided they do not engage in the activities that aggravate or contribute to the DDD in the first place. Most do not need surgery. In fact, only one to three percent of patients with degenerative disc problems typically require surgery.
Doctors prefer to try nonsurgical treatment for a minimum of three months before considering surgery. If, after this period, nonsurgical treatment hasn’t improved symptoms, the doctor may recommend surgery. The main types of surgery for degenerative disc problems include lumbar laminectomy, discectomy and fusion.
The lamina forms a roof-like structure over the back of the spinal column. When the nerves in the spinal canal are squeezed by a degenerated disc or by bone spurs pushing into the canal, a laminectomy removes most, or all of the lamina to release pressure on the spinal nerves.
Surgery to take out part or all of a problem disc in the low back is called discectomy. Discectomy is done when the degenerated disc has ruptured (herniated) into the spinal canal, putting pressure on the spinal nerves. Surgeons commonly perform this operation through an incision in the low back. Before the disc material can be removed, the surgeon must first remove part of the lamina. Generally, only a small piece of the lamina is chipped away to expose the problem disc. This is called laminotomy. It usually creates enough room for the surgeon to remove the disc. If more room is needed, the surgeon may need to take out a larger section of the lamina by doing a laminectomy (described above).
Many surgeons now do minimally invasive surgeries that require only small incisions in the low back. These procedures are used to remove damaged portions of the problem disc. Advocates believe that this type of surgery is easier to perform. They also believe it prevents scarring around the nerves and joints and helps patients recover more quickly. Minimally invasive surgeries include percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laser discectomy, and microdiscectomy.
In Milwaukee, Wisconsin McCormick Law Office attorneys represent workers with lumbar degenerative disc disease in workers compensation claims getting benefits for disability, loss of earnings and retraining. The decision to have surgery should be made solely by the injured worker in consultation with his or her health care professionals. Workers compensation benefits loss of earning capacity and retraining benefits are based on the nature of any work-related permanent restrictions, not whether there has been a surgical procedure. Next, lumbar fusion surgery.