Surgery for sciatica is usually reserved for situations when the compressed nerve causes significant muscle weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, or severe pain that gets progressively worse. It is generally reasonable to consider sciatica surgery if your symptoms haven’t improved after 2 to 3 months of conservative, non-surgical treatments.
The main purpose of a sciatic nerve operation is to decompress the nerve by removing debris that is causing it. Sciatic nerve decompression can be achieved with an open procedure or minimally invasive endoscopic spine surgery.
An open sciatica decompression procedure requires that the surgeon cut open the skin with a large incision to gain access to the compressed nerve. Open procedures are invasive and, depending on the procedure, may require up to a year of recovery. However, during a minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon needs to only make a tiny incision to decompress the troubled nerve. For this reason there is minimal blood loss, no need for general anesthesia, and no hospital stay.
Sciatic nerve operation success rates for both types of procedure are about equal. But minimally invasive procedures are associated with less pain and faster recovery than open procedures.
Because sciatica can be caused by many different conditions, the sciatica surgery that would bring relief to you may be different than what would help another patient. See our surgery section for a more detailed look at endoscopic sciatica surgery procedures that may help bring you relief or use our Back & Neck Pain Evaluation Tool™ for a complete diagnosis and treatment recommendation based on your history and symptoms.