People with ruptured disks in their lower backs usually recover whether or not they have surgery, researchers are reporting. The study, a large trial, found that surgery appeared to relieve pain more quickly but that most people recovered eventually and that there was no harm in waiting.
And that, surgeons said, is likely to change medical practice.
The study, published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is the only large and rigorous randomized trial to compare surgery with waiting for sciatica.
The study was controversial from the start, with many surgeons saying they knew that the operation worked and that it would be unethical for their patients to participate.