A discectomy is a minimally invasive procedure performed by a spine surgeon to remove a part of a bulging or herniated disc and help regain normal movement and function by reducing pain. The disc can cause pain, numbness, tingling or weakness from pressing on the spinal nerves or spinal cord.
Intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers or cushions for the vertebrae or column of bones in the spine. Each disc has an outer layer, called the annulus, which surrounds the center, called the nucleus. A disc can herniate, bulge or press on spinal nerves when the disc slips or becomes damaged. This can also happen with the spinal cord and can cause pain and inflammation.
A discectomy tends to be performed as a microdiscectomy, a minimally invasive procedure using a special microscope to view the disc and nerves. This larger view allows the surgeon to use a smaller incision, resulting in less damage to surrounding tissue.
Once the surgeon can visualize the lamina of the vertebrae, disc and other surrounding structures, they will remove the section of the disc that is protruding from the disc wall and any other disc fragments that may have been expelled from the disc. No material is used to replace the disc tissue that is removed. The incision is then closed with sutures and the patient is taken to a recovery room.
With this surgery from Orlando Orthopaedic Center, patients go home the same day with recovery lasting two to six weeks. A majority of patients treated at Orlando Orthopaedic Center report an improvement in their condition.
Who is a Candidate for a Discectomy?
Discectomy is performed for patients who experience pain or other debilitating symptoms from a compressed or impinged disc.
Ideal candidates should have back or neck pain for at least 3 months and should experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chronic or acute pain in the back or neck that is sharp, dull, deep, throbbing, shooting, or radiating into the extremities
- Sciatica pain that radiates from the back down to the buttocks, legs, calves, feet, and/or toes
- Pain that travels from the neck to the shoulders, arms, hands, or fingers
- Weakness or numbness in the extremities
- Trouble standing, walking, or sitting due to stiffness, weakness, or pain
- History of attempting conservative methods of treatment that failed to relieve pain or help with healing the spinal condition
Patients should consider all risks and benefits of spine surgery before making their decision. A spine surgeon will discuss all available options and treatments available to provide relief.
What to Expect Following a Discectomy
Immediately after the discectomy procedure, most will have some pain in and around the area of your operation, but the surgeon will ensure as little discomfort as possible. A very small number of people may experience difficulty passing urine after the operation. Usually this is simply a temporary disturbance of bladder function, but very rarely complications may cause the nerves to the legs or bladder to stop working so it’s important to tell the doctor and nurses immediately.
After surgery, you will be encouraged to get out of bed and walk as soon as the numbness wears off. You can use prescription medicines to control pain while you recover. You can slowly resume exercise and other activities. Depending on the amount of lifting, walking and sitting your day to day life involves, you may be able to return to work in two to six weeks
It is imperative that to complete the physical therapy as designated by the doctor to help ensure the best possible outcome from the discectomy.