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Success of Lumbar Microdiscectomy in Patients with Modic Changes and Low-Back Pain: a Prospective Pilot Study

Scientific Paper

Chin KR1, Tomlinson DTAuerbach JDShatsky JBDeirmengian CA.

Interested medical professionals can read through the full paper, as published in Clinical Spine Surgery, here.


Prospective case controlled.


To determine the outcome after microdiscectomy in patients with disc herniation, concordant sciatica, and low-back pain with Modic I and II degenerative changes compared with similar patients without Modic changes.


The decision to perform a microdiscectomy versus a fusion or total disc replacement in a patient with a disc herniation and sciatica may be confounded by the presence of low-back pain, degenerative disc disease, and marrow and endplate (Modic) changes.


Thirty consecutive patients underwent a microdiscectomy by a single surgeon. Group 1 consisted of 15 patients, 6 men and 9 women, with a mean age of 36.7 years (range, 21 to 48 y), with Modic I and II changes. Group 2 contained 15 patients, 9 men and 6 women, with a mean age of 34.1 years (range, 20 to 68 y), without Modic changes. The average duration of low-back pain before surgery was 25.6 months (range 4 to 120 mo) in group 1 and 17.5 months (range 5 to 120 mo) in group 2. The visual analog scale (VAS) was used to grade low-back pain and the Oswestry score was used to grade overall disability.


There was no significant difference in preoperative sciatica, low-back pain, VAS or Oswestry scores for group 1 versus group 2 patients. Postoperatively, all patents had improved sciatica and resolution of any nerve tension sign. Eighty-six percent of patients in group 1 versus 93% of patients in group 2 had improvements in postoperative VAS score for low-back pain at 6 months. Average improvement within each group was 67% and 75%, respectively. VAS scores for low-back pain at 6 months improved from 6.9 to 2.3 (P=0.0005) in group 1 and 6.3 to 1.6 (P=0.0002) in group 2. Group 1 and 2 had 89% and 100% of patients show improvement in postoperative Oswestry score at 6 months with an average improvement of 58% and 84%, respectively. Oswestry scores at 6 months improved from 68.7% to 28.8% (P=0.0007) in group 1 and 61.2% to 9.9% (P=0.00003) in group 2.


There was a trend toward greater improvement in Oswestry scores in patients without Modic changes (P=0.09). Both groups reported statistically significant improvement in sciatica, low-back pain, and disability after microdiscectomy. Microdiscectomy was therefore an effective treatment for disc herniation and concordant sciatica despite low-back pain and Modic I and II degenerative changes.


Therapeutic II.


Dr. Kingsley R. Chin, Founder of philosophy and practice of The LES Society and The LESS Institute

Dr. Kingsley R. Chin is a board certified Harvard-trained orthopedic spine surgeon and professor with copious business and information technology exposure. He sees a niche opportunity where medicine, business and info. tech meet – and is uniquely educated at the intersection of these three professions. He has experience as Professor of Clinical Biomedical Sciences & Admissions Committee Member at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Visiting Spine Surgeon & Professor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and Adjunct Professor of Clinical Biomedical Studies at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

Learn more about Dr. Chin here and connect via LinkedIn.


Less Exposure Surgery (LES) is based on a new philosophy of performing surgery, leading the charge to prove through bench and clinical outcomes research that LES treatment options are the best solutions – to lowering the cost of healthcare, improving outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction. Learn more at LESSociety.org.

The LES Society philosophy: “Tailor treatment to the individual aiding in the quickest recovery and return to a pain-free lifestyle, using LES® techniques that lessen exposure, preserve unoffending anatomy and utilize new technologies which are safe, easy to adopt and reproducible. These LES®techniques lessen blood loss, surgical time and exposure to radiation and can be safely performed in an outpatient center. Less is more.” – Kingsley R. Chin, MD


The LESS Institute is the world leader center of excellence in Less Exposure Surgery. Our safe, effective outpatient treatments help patients recover quickly, avoid expensive hospital stays and return home to their family the same day. Watch our patient stories, follow us on Facebook and visit TheLESSInstitute.com to learn more.


The above study utilized LES Technology from SpineFrontier – leading provider of LES Technologies and instruments – offering surgeons and patients superior technology and services.



Chin KR1, Tomlinson DTAuerbach JDShatsky JBDeirmengian CA.

Author information

  1. Spine Surgery Service, Department of Orthopaedics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.

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