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Additional operations after surgery for lumbar disc prolapse

indications, type of surgery, and long-term follow-up of primary operations performed from 2007 to 2008

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Lumbar disc prolapse is a frequent indication for surgery. The few available long-term follow-up studies focus mainly on repeated surgery for recurrent disease. The aim of this study was to analyze all reasons for additional surgery for patients operated on for a primary lumbar disc prolapse.


We retrieved data from the Swedish spine register about 3,291 patients who underwent primary surgery for a lumbar disc prolapse between January 2007 and December 2008. These patients were followed until December 2020 to record all additional lumbar spine operations and the reason for them.


In total, 681 of the 3,291 patients (21%) needed one or more additional operations. More than three additional operations was uncommon (2%; 15/906). Overall, 906 additional operations were identified during the time period, with a mean time to the first of these of 3.7 years (SD 3.6). The most common reason for an additional operation was recurrent disc prolapse (47%; 426/906), followed by spinal stenosis or degenerative spondylolisthesis (19%; 176/906), and segmental pain (16%; 145/906). The most common surgical procedures were revision discectomy (43%; 385/906) and instrumented fusion (22%; 200/906). Degenerative spinal conditions other than disc prolapse became a more common reason for additional surgery with increasing length of follow-up. Most patients achieved the minimally important change (MIC) for the patient-reported outcomes after the index surgery. After the third additional spinal operation, only 20% (5/25) achieved the MIC in terms of leg pain, and 29% (7/24) in terms of the EuroQol five-dimension index questionnaire visual analogue scale.


More than one in five patients operated on for a lumbar disc prolapse underwent further surgery during the 13-year follow-up period. Recurrent disc prolapse was the most common reason for additional surgery, followed by spinal stenosis and segmental pain. This study shows that additional operations after primary disc surgery are needed more frequently than previously reported, and that the outcome profoundly deteriorates after the second additional operation. The findings from this study can be used in the shared decision-making process.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2022;104-B(5):627–632.

Correspondence should be sent to Freyr Gauti Sigmundsson. E-mail:

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