Pregnant woman undergoes risky spine surgery

Pregnant woman undergoes risky spine surgery for rare condition

A diagnosis showed a large extruded disc in the spinal cord with severe compression of the left foramen

Representative image. Credit: iStockPhoto

A 14 weeks pregnant woman successfully underwent a risky surgical procedure for lumbar disc herniation, a rare condition that affects only one out of 10,000 pregnant women in the world. 

The 34-year-old woman had experienced severe progressive back pain for three months and found it difficult to walk, sit or even sleep in any position. The pain took a toll on her food intake as well as sleep quality. Since her pain was only localised to the back and the left lower limb, her gynaecologist referred her to the neurologist. 

A diagnosis showed a large extruded disc in the spinal cord with severe compression of the left foramen. Doctors suggested the Micro Lumbar Discectomy (MLD) surgery to prevent the need for analgesics and the risks of nerve compression further into the pregnancy. There were many challenges to the surgery, the importance of which was the prone positioning which meant flipping the patient on her abdomen after anaesthetising her. 

Dr Vijaya Sherbet, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal, said: "Even though the patient was only at 14 weeks gestation and did not have a big belly, the positioning was still a difficult task as bolsters and cushions had to be adjusted to ensure that the belly was not in contact with the operating table and had no pressure." 

Other challenges included minimising the exposure of anaesthetic drugs to the foetus and avoiding a severe blood loss. All of these challenges worried the pregnant patient as she was scared of the medical procedures affecting her foetus. 

"I have not performed such a surgery during my 30 years of medical career. It is rare, and not more than 100 cases are reported throughout the world. The surgery also had certain inherent challenges which may directly affect the developing fetus," said Dr Avinash, senior consultant neurologist at the hospital, which is part of the Manipal Hospitals group. 

After the surgery, the patient came off painkiller drugs quickly and had a faster return to mobility, the hospital said. 

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