What Spinal Conditions May Be Helped By Surgery?

Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Neurosurgeon, discusses what spinal conditions may be helped by surgery.

Loading the player...

Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Neurosurgeon, discusses what spinal conditions may be helped by surgery.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Neurosurgeon

Duration: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

When a patient’s symptoms correlate with the findings on the MRI scan, in that situation surgery actually can be very helpful.  

And some of the typical symptoms that respond well to surgery are what is typically known as sciatica. So pain, numbness, tingling, sometimes weakness in the legs if it’s due to a herniated disc, then surgery in fact in those situations can be very helpful.  

So this model demonstrates a lumbar disc, and discs are cushions. You can think of them as cushions between the vertebrae. Over time these discs degenerate, wear out, lose their water content, and this is actually a normal aging process, and the MRI reports will reflect that, so that’s not alarming.  

And sometimes even with acute traumatic situations a disc can actually bulge out or herniate as we see here. When that happens, a portion of the disc can actually protrude and irritate or squeeze a nerve that’s traveling by the disc.  

And these nerves travel down to the legs, and when that occurs, patients will experience pain, numbness, tingling radiating down their leg, and that’s called sciatica.

If that sciatica is not responding to conservative measures or nonsurgical measures, and if the pain is worsening over time, or if there’s significant weakness, that very well may be an indication for surgery.  

And the good news is that surgery can be very helpful in those situations. Now there are many different types of surgery available for spinal conditions. Lumbar microdiscectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures done.  

It’s associated with a very high success rate as long as it’s done for the right indications.  Lumbar laminectomy is another surgical procedure that’s done for spinal stenosis, which is essentially a crowding of the space available for the nerves going down to the legs.  

There are also other surgical procedures available, such as endoscopic disc surgery, laser spine surgery. The important thing to recognize is that the exact type of surgery is probably not as important as what the surgery is trying to achieve, which is to relieve the pressure on the nerves. And standard microdiscectomy done for the right reasons is associated with a very high success rate.

Presenter: Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, Neurosurgeon, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Neurosurgeon

Video Quiz ( 23 participated.)

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:


A condition called 'sciatica', which causes pain, tingling and numbness down the leg will always require surgery. 


If a patient has sciatica caused by a bulging or herniated disc, surgery is only required if the condition does not respond to non surgical treatments, is getting worse over time and the patient experiences significant weakness in the leg.


The two most common procedures that are performed on the lower back are a microdiscectomy and a laminectomy.

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.