A man who stayed up all night playing mahjong during the Lunar New Year holiday suddenly felt pain below his waist and numbness in his right thigh and shin, and was later diagnosed with a spinal disc herniation, commonly known as a slipped disc.
Chen Chien-min (陳建民), the director of the neurosurgery division at the Changhua Christian Hospital, said the patient had a herniated disc between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae in the lower back, which caused a bulge that put pressure on the patient’s right root nerve.
The hospital performed a minimally invasive spinal surgery (MISS) on the patient, with the patient able to walk later on the day of the surgery and being discharged the next day, Chen said.
The neurosurgeon said the surgery involved using an endoscope — a very thin fiber-optic video camera — and specialized retractors to perform the surgical procedure through tiny incisions in the patient’s lower back. Watching the video screen showing images sent by the camera placed inside the body, the protrusion, or the portion of the disc that was pushing against the nerve root, was removed.
Chen said that MISS, with its tiny incisions, avoids potential significant damage to the spine and some patients, following proper evaluation, can even have the microdiscectomy done under local anesthesia.
Most of the patients undergoing the surgery can have a very short hospital stay, being discharged on the same day as the surgery or the day after, he added.
Chen said that a healthy spine can be maintained by avoiding staying in the same position for a long period of time and if a person has to sit for long periods, by placing a cushion behind the lower back to maintain the spine’s natural curve and allow the spine to relax.