The eight months after suffering from a fall were sheer agony for 34-year-old Sameer Jha (name changed). After being diagnosed with a slip disc, which left him with severe leg pain, he was informed his only treatment option was a new surgical procedure, which was only recently being performed by Indian doctors.
“I had reached a point where the pain had become unbearable. When my doctor in Saifee hospital explained to me the surgery would require a very small incision and that I would be able to walk on the same day, I decided to go ahead with it,” said Sameer, who is a Mumbai-based businessman.
He underwent a surgical procedure known as full-endoscopic interlaminar discectomy, due to which he says he was able to resume with work and his regular activities within a week after the surgery. “It was a major relief to get permanent relief from the pain caused by slip disc and while I was worried there would be a relapse post surgery, it has been more than a year and I haven’t experienced any pain,” added Sameer.
In fact, according to Dr Sambhav Shah, consultant spine surgeon at Saifee hospital, Jha was the thirteenth patient to have undergone this new surgical procedure in Mumbai so far. “In a full-endoscopic interlaminar discectomy, we use a 4.1 mm diameter endoscope in the back of the spine along with a small camera. Due to this, we don’t need to remove any bones, ligaments or other anatomy while tackling the slip disc, like it is done in a conventional discectomy,” said Shah.
In this procedure, which originates from Germany, patients suffer from little to no blood loss, minimal scarring and have a faster recovery period. “The good news is that 90 per cent of slip disc patients can make a full recovery with physiotherapy alone and in some cases, injections are given if the pain is too severe. However, for the other 10 per cent, surgery is required,” he further explained.
The most common age group to be affected by a slip disc are between 20-45 years old and other than obesity and lack of exercise, a history of lifting heavy weights is also a common cause of this condition. When trauma causes the disc to split, it touches or pinches nerves in the spine, which in turn results in pain along with a burning and tingling sensation in the leg. In cases where there is a slip disc in the neck, the patient will complain of arm pain as well.
“For patients who are above 55 years old, spinal canal stenosis is the leading cause of a slip disc. Due to ageing, the ligaments become thick or the joints grow bigger and press the nerves. In a conventional discectomy, there is a five to six per cent risk of the surgeon causing a dural tear with the intruments. It is a human error which can be avoided by using endoscopy. Also, with this surgical procedure, the chances of infection is almost negligible, especially for diabetics,” said Shah.
Other than this, Dr Shah estimates that following a discectomy which is done from the side, rather than the back, four out of 10 patients still complained of pain after the surgery. “Unless the slip disc took place on one of the patient’s sides, operating from that angle is not ideal as the surgeon can see a very small part of the nerves. However, from the back with this technology, we can see the whole nerve in totality,” he said.
In this surgical procedure, heat is generated through low radio frequency, which helps in stopping and treating the slip disc, due to which there is also no damage to the surrounding nerves.