A Herniated Disc May Require Back Surgery in Adolescents
Saturday, 08 October 2011 13:46

Though adolescents are rarely unfortunate enough to endure chronic low back pain caused by a herniated disc of the lumbar spine, young people with the condition may develop scoliosis if they are not diagnosed properly.


Scoliosis is a condition in which a part of the spine starts to curve abnormally, which can lead to chronic low back pain, trouble breathing and low self-esteem. Up to 6 million Americans live with the disease, 85 percent of whom cannot determine the cause of their curvature, a condition known as idiopathic scoliosis. Every year, there are more than 600,000 visits to doctors' offices and 38,000 spinal fusion procedures because of scoliosis, according to the National Scoliosis Foundation.

Both adolescents and adults can develop scoliosis because of a herniation, possibly as the body's way to take the pressure off a pinched nerve. Researchers in China noted that there are very few studies that characterize the nature of adolescent scoliosis caused by a herniated disc. The team studied the medical records and radiological images of 26 people, aged 14 to 20 years, who were diagnosed initially with scoliosis. While some patients had conservative treatments, others eventually had back surgery to remove part or all of a herniated disc in a procedure known as discectomy.

The results, published Sept. 30 in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, revealed that several adolescents were misdiagnosed as having idiopathic scoliosis, suggesting that more thorough screening may be needed for these patients. This may have been because lumbar disc herniations are relatively rare in adolescents, who may experience different symptoms from adults, including difficulty walking, muscle spasms and psychological pain. For younger people, herniated discs may occur because of trauma or genetic predispositions, according to the researchers.

Studying the radiological images also gave the team a general idea of the pattern of scoliosis that can develop in adolescents after a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. The researchers believe that younger patients would benefit from a discectomy sooner in their treatment because their bodies could adjust to the procedure relatively well.

Endoscopic spine surgery provides a minimally invasive alternative to repairing a herniated disc, bulging disc or disc tear. A procedure known as lumbar endoscopic discectomy can be done on an outpatient basis. The spine procedure involves inserting a tube with a camera through a small incision to the affected site, and using a laser to reshape or re-size the offending disc, which could otherwise be removed.

For more information about this and other spine procedures to relieve your chronic low back pain, contact us today at 877-722-6008.