Benefits and risks

Benefits and risks

NICE decided that there is not much good evidence about how well this procedure works or how safe it is. The 5 studies that NICE looked at involved a total of 332 patients.

Generally, they showed the following benefits:

  • no return of the slipped disc within 2 years after surgery

  • reduced disability 6 weeks after surgery, still seen after 2 years

  • less back and leg pain than before the procedure, still seen after 2 years

  • less height loss in the disc 1 year after surgery.

The studies showed that the risks of inserting an implant after discectomy in the lower spine included:

  • a tear in the outer cover of the spinal cord in 1 patient; this could potentially lead to complications such as headache or infection because of fluid leaking out of the central nervous system

  • suspected infection of the disc 56 days after surgery in 1 patient, which was successfully treated with antibiotics

  • further operations needed in 3 patients: 2 because of the slipped disc coming back and 1 because of excessive scar tissue.

If you want to know more about the studies, see the guidance. Ask your health professional to explain anything you don't understand.

  • Information Standard