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Steroids Can Help Ease the Pain of Disc Surgery

Steroids are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs. They are sometimes used to help ease inflammation after surgery. Earlier studies have shown that steroids may help patients who have spinal discs removed. The steroids seem to work by controlling swelling and limiting the growth of scar tissue.

These authors tested how well steroids work during disc surgery. Eighty patients were divided into two groups. All patients had lumbar disc herniations. All had surgery to remove the problem discs. The first group had extra steroids during surgery. Steroids were given through an IV line and by injection into the muscles. Tissues soaked in steroids were also placed on the area before stitching it up. The second group had the usual surgery, without large doses of steroids.

All patients were followed for two years. Researchers looked at patients' recovery time, pain levels, function, and return to work. Both groups got better. However, the steroid group had better outcomes. On average, the steroid group had shorter hospital stays. They returned to full-time work earlier. They also had lower pain levels and better function. These good results lasted over the two years of the study.

They authors saw no side effects from the steroids. Steroids can have bad side effects when taken long-term. But a one-time dose doesn't seem to cause lasting problems. The authors conclude that steroids given during disc removal surgery improve the results.


Anders Lundin, et al. The Effect of Perioperative Corticosteroids on the Outcome of Microscopic Lumbar Disc Surgery. In European Spine Journal. December 2003. Vol. 12. No. 6. Pp. 625-630.

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