Mid- to long-term outcome of disc excision in adolescent disc herniation

Yossi Smorgick*, Yizhar Floman, Michael A. Millgram, Yoram Anekstein, Ilya Pekarsky, Yigal Mirovsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background context: Adolescent disc herniation and its surgical treatment have been the subjects of many published clinical series. The majority of these series were heterogeneous; the number of adolescent patients (12-17 years) as opposed to young adults (18-20 years) was generally small and the length of follow-up varied greatly. Although the short-term outcome of disc excision in adolescents was mostly favorable, their long-term outcome is unknown. Objectives: To evaluate the mid- and long-term results of discectomy in patients younger than 17 years of age. Study design: Retrospective examination of a series of adolescent patients under the age of 17 years who underwent surgery for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation. Patient sample: The medical records of 26 patients (15 males, 11 females, 12-17 years old [average 14.6]) who were operated for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation in three spine centers between 1984 and 2002 were reviewed. These subjects represented the total number of patients meeting the criteria of adolescents undergoing discectomy for lumbar disc herniation in these institutions during the study period. All patients were located and contacted by an independent observer not involved in the care of these patients. Low back pain associated with leg pain was the main clinical symptom in 20 patients (77%), leg pain in 4 (15%), and back pain in 2 (8%). They all underwent posterior disc excision: 23 (88%) patients had one level discectomy, and 3 (12%) had simultaneous discectomy at two levels. The L4-L5 interspace was involved 19 times, and the L5-S1 interspace 10 times. Slipped vertebral apophysis was diagnosed in 4 patients (15%). Twelve of the 26 patients (46%) had a first-degree relative with a history of lumbar disc herniation. Outcome measures: Telephone interviews provided follow-up data for 26 patients. Results were classified as excellent, good, moderate, or poor according to current symptom status, the need for additional surgery, the Oswestry Disability Index, and back and leg pain scores. Results: The average time from surgery to follow-up was 8.9 years (range 3-21 years). At follow-up, the clinical results were excellent in 13 patients (50%), good in 4 (15%), moderate in 8 (31%), and poor in 1 (4%). Four subjects (15%) underwent a subsequent disc excision in the lumbar region, and one of them later underwent fusion. Conclusions: Discectomy provides satisfactory clinical results in young patients with disc herniation. The rate of reintervention (15%) is comparable to that in adults, indicating that discectomy for young patients should be approached similarly to that in adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-384
Number of pages5
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent disc herniation
  • Familial predisposition
  • Long-term clinical outcome
  • Slipped vertebral apophysis


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