Study Design. A single-center retrospective study.
Objective. To compare the speed of recovery of different sensory symptoms, pain, numbness, and paresthesia, after lumbar nerve root decompression.
Summary of Background Data. Lumbar radiculopathy is characterized by different sensory symptoms like pain, numbness, and paresthesia, which may resolve at different rates after surgical decompression.
Methods. Eighty-five cases with predominant lumbar radiculopathy treated surgically were reviewed. Oswestry Disability Index score, 36-Item Short Form Health Survey scores (Physical Component Summary and Mental Component Summary), and pain drawing at preoperative and at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 1-year follow-up were reviewed. Recovery rate between different sensory symptoms were compared in all patients, and between the short-term compression (<6 mo) and long-term compression groups.
Results. At baseline, 73 (85.8%) patients had pain, 63 (74.1%) had numbness, and 38 (44.7%) had paresthesia; 28 (32.9%) had all these 3 component of sensory symptoms. Mean pain score improved fastest (55.3% at 6 wk); further resolution until 1 year was slow and not significant compared with each previous visit. Both numbness and paresthesia scores showed a trend of faster recovery during the initial 6-week period (20.5% and 24%, respectively); paresthesia recovery reached a plateau at 3 months postoperatively, but numbness continued a slow recovery until 1-year follow-up. Both Oswestry Disability Index score and Physical Component Summary scores (54.02 ± 1.87 and 26.29 ± 0.93, respectively, at baseline) improved significantly compared with each previous visits at 6 weeks and 3 months postoperatively, but further improvement was insignificant. Mental Component Summary showed a similar trend but smaller improvement. The short-term compression group had faster recovery of pain than the long-term compression group.
Conclusion. In lumbar radiculopathy patients after surgical decompression, pain recovers fastest, in the first 6 weeks postoperatively, followed by paresthesia recovery that plateaus at 3 months postoperatively. Numbness recovers at a slower pace but continues until 1 year.
Level of Evidence: 4