Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

I am a nurse in a large surgical unit. I injured the middle of my back lifting a heavy patient. There's a large herniated disc at T9-10. If I don't have surgery to repair this, will it heal on its own?

Answer:

If the protruding disc takes up more than 40 percent of the spinal canal, then it's called a giant herniated disc. Without surgery, there is a risk of permanent damage to the spinal cord. The body will try to heal itself. An inflammatory process is started. After some time the disc material can become infiltrated with bone, a process called ossification. With an ossified or calcified disc herniation, your chances of neurologic injury go up. If you aren't having any neurologic symptoms at the present time your chances for a complete recovery are good. Bilateral symptoms of leg pain and/or bladder signal a more serious problem. Surgery is likely to be more important. Most doctors will say "the sooner the better" for a good outcome. Jonathan S. Hott, M.D., et al. Surgical Management of Giant Herniated Thoracic Discs: Analysis of 20 Cases. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. September 2005. Vol. 3. Number 3. Pp. 191-197.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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