We retrospectively reviewed the cases of seventy-two consecutive patients who had a lumbar discectomy, between 1950 and 1983, when they were sixteen years of age or younger. There were forty boys and thirty-two girls. At the time of the lumbar discectomy, twelve patients (17 per cent) also had a spinal arthrodesis. The mean duration of follow-up was 27.8 years (range, twelve to forty-five years). Twenty patients (28 per cent) had one reoperation or more, with the first reoperation performed at a mean of 9.7 years after the initial discectomy. Fourteen patients had one reoperation, four had two reoperations, one had three, and one had five. Fifty-two patients (72 per cent) did not need a reoperation. At the time of the latest follow-up, forty-eight (92 per cent) of the fifty-two patients either had no pain or had occasional pain related to strenuous activity and fifty-one (98 per cent) could participate in daily activities with no or mild limitations. Survivorship analysis showed that the overall probability that a patient would not need a reoperation was 80 per cent at ten years and 74 per cent at twenty years after the initial operation. With the numbers available for study, we could not show that age, gender, or an arthrodesis performed at the time of the initial operation were risk factors for a reoperation. We could not detect a difference, with respect to pain or the level of activity, between the patients who had had an arthrodesis at the initial operation and those who had not or between those who had a coexisting structural abnormality of the lumbar spine and those who did not.