Clinical and Radiological Characteristics of Lumbosacral Lateral Disc Herniation in Comparison With Those of Medial Disc Herniation

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Lateral disc herniation (foraminal and extra foraminal) has clinical characteristics that are different from those of medial disc herniation (central and subarticular), including older age, more frequent radicular pain, and neurologic deficits. This is supposedly because lateral disc herniation mechanically irritates or compresses the exiting nerve root or dorsal root ganglion inside of a narrow canal more directly than medial disc herniation. The purpose of this study was to investigate clinical and radiological characteristics of lateral disc herniation in comparison with medial disc herniation. The 352 subjects diagnosed with localized lumbosacral disc herniation and followed up for at least 12 months after completion of treatment were included and divided into medial and lateral disc herniation groups, according to the anatomical location of the herniated disc in axial plain of magnetic resonance image. Clinical and radiological data were obtained and compared between the two groups. The lateral group included 74 (21%) patients and the medial group included 278 (79%). Mean age of the lateral group was significantly higher than that in the medial group. The lateral group showed a significantly larger proportion of patients with radiating leg pain and multiple levels of disc herniations than the medial group. No significant differences were found in terms of gender, duration of pain, pretreatment numeric rating scale, severity of disc herniation (protrusion and extrusion), and presence of weakness in leg muscles. The proportion of patients who underwent surgery was not significantly different between the 2 groups. However, the proportion of patients who accomplished successful pain reduction after treatment was significantly smaller in the lateral than in the medial group. In conclusion, patients with lateral disc herniation were older and had larger proportion of radiating leg pain than those with medial disc herniation. Lateral disc herniation was more associated with multiple disc herniations and worse clinical outcomes after treatment than medial disc herniation.

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