Background: There have been several recent reports of lumbar disc herniation (LDH) resorption; however, large sample studies are lacking, and the mechanism(s) underlying this phenomenon is unclear.
Objectives: To explore the feasibility and clinical outcomes of conservative treatment for giant LDH and to analyze the factors affecting the resorption of giant LDH.
Study design: Observational study and original research.
Setting: This work was performed at a University Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Methods: From January 2008 to December 2019, 409 patients with giant LDH who initially underwent nonsurgical treatment in our hospital were followed for 1-12 years to analyze the rate of surgical intervention, calculate the rate of resorption of protrusions, and the rate of excellent clinical outcomes.
Results: Eighty-nine of the 409 patients (21.76%) underwent surgery, while the remaining 320 patients (78.24%) constituted the non-surgical treatment group. The Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) score in the 320 patients changed from 10.22 ± 3.84 points to 24.88 ± 5.69 points after treatment, and the rate of excellent outcomes was 84.06%. Among the 320 patients in the non-surgical treatment group, the protrusion percentage decreased from 70.08±30.95% to 31.67 ± 24.42%. One-hundred and eighty-nine patients (59.06%) had > 30% resorption of protrusions, and 81 patients (25.31%) had a significant resorption of protrusions of > 50%. Among 189 patients with resorption, the shortest resorption interval was 1 month, and the longest was 8 years, with 77 patients (40.74%) showing resorption within 6 months, 51 (26.98%) within 6-12 months, and 61 patients (32.28%) after 12 months.
Limitation: The main limitations are that all patients were from the same site, and there was a lack of multicenter randomized controlled trials with which to compare data.
Conclusions: Patients with giant LDH are less likely to develop progressive nerve injury and cauda equina syndrome if their clinical symptoms improve after treatment. As long as there is no progressive nerve injury or cauda equina syndrome, conservative treatment is preferred for giant disc herniation. Resorption is more likely with greater disc protrusions in the spinal canal. A ring enhancement bull's eye sign) around a protruding disc on enhanced magnetic resonance imaging is an important indicator of straightforward resorption.
Keywords: Lumbar disc herniation; bull’s eye sign; conservative treatment; giant; resorption.