Spine expert Mr Ioannis Fouyas on the questions to ask 

We asked Mr Ioannis Fouyas, consultant neurosurgeon with a special interest in lumbar spine procedures, what he would ask if he was undergoing lumbar decompressive surgery.

When should I think about having surgery?

If you have experienced severe leg pain for two to three months and rest, painkillers and physiotherapy have failed to bring relief, you should consider surgery. 

Will it be a permanent cure?

Even if the surgery is successful, there is still a small chance that the problem may recur. A disc can bulge out again and stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal) can reform.

How long will it be before I am out of pain?

Your leg pain will disappear almost immediately after the operation, but your back may still feel uncomfortable for a few weeks.

How successful is it?

Surgery can be very effective for relieving leg pain but is not always so successful for back pain. With back pain, the problem is more likely to stem from natural wear and tear, which is not so easy to reverse.

Is it ever an emergency?

Rarely, but seek immediate medical attention if you have difficulties passing water, in addition to your back and leg pain. This is caused by pressure on all the nerves in the lower back (cauda equina syndrome) and results in numbness in the buttocks that prevents you from urinating.

Lumbar surgery

Around half of us have back pain at some time in our lives. It often heals in time, but for some people the pain doesn't go away and surgery is the only answer. Watch this video to see how lumbar surgery can relieve pressure on the spinal nerves in the lower back.

Media last reviewed: 19/01/2016

Next review due: 19/01/2018

Ask your consultant

  • Can you explain the exact or probable origin of my pain?
  • Are there any other treatment options apart from surgery?
  • Why are you recommending surgery rather than these?
  • Do I need surgery straight away or can it wait?
  • What could happen if I don’t have surgery?
  • What will the surgery involve?
  • Are my symptoms directly related to the nerve compression?
  • What are my chances of good pain relief if I opt for surgery?
  • What is the chance of symptoms recurring after successful surgery?
  • How many spinal procedures have you performed?
  • What type of anaesthetic will I need?
  • Are there any risks?
  • How long will I need to stay in hospital?

Page last reviewed: 21/01/2012

Next review due: 21/01/2014