Background: Previous studies have investigated sensory recovery in patients with lumbar disc herniation using rather subjective methods. There have been no reports on changes of sensory function in patients suffering from a preoperative sensory deficit using quantitative sensory testing (QST). The aims of this prospective study were (1) to assess the recovery of preoperative sensory dysfunction after lumbar sequestrectomy and (2) to quantify the strength of relationship between a sensory deficit and the patient's quality of life.
Methods: We applied the QST protocol of the German Research Network on Neuropathic Pain (DFNS) in fifty-two patients with a single lumbar disc herniation confirmed on MRI treated by lumbar sequestrectomy. Further evaluation included a detailed medical history, a physical examination, numeric rating scale for leg, EQ-5D questionnaire, and thermometer.
Results: Disc surgery resulted in a significant reduction of leg pain and a significant gain of quality of life. Thermal, mechanical, and vibration perception thresholds showed an obvious side-to-side difference preoperatively (p < 0.005). An early recovery of mechanical and vibration perception thresholds was detected, whereas cold perception needed more than 6 months to recover (p < 0.05). Quality of life was independent from perception thresholds, but correlated significantly with pain reduction.
Conclusion: Our data clearly show that there is a subjective and quantifiable improvement in sensory dysfunction postoperatively. The current data suggest that a sensory dysfunction does not influence a patient's quality of life.
Keywords: Lumbar disc herniation; Lumbar radiculopathy; Lumbar sequestrectomy; Quantitative sensory testing; Sensory deficit.