A discectomy is a type of decompressive surgery that’s performed to relieve pressure on compressed nerve roots in the spine. Today, many discectomies are performed as minimally invasive procedures that are less damaging than open back surgeries. Minimally invasive spine surgeries use smaller incisions and have a faster recovery period than traditional surgeries.
Many discectomies are successful at relieving leg pain and other symptoms that develop when a bulging or herniated disc presses against nerves in the spine. Keep reading to learn more.
When Is a Discectomy Necessary?
The primary goal of a discectomy is to remove disc material that’s compressing the spinal cord or nerve roots in the spine. Intervertebral spinal discs play a critical role in stabilizing and supporting the spine. They cushion vertebrae, absorb shock, and facilitate movements like bending and twisting.
Over time, spinal discs naturally dry out, weaken, and develop tiny cracks from daily stresses. These degenerative changes can cause discs to bulge or herniate. A bulging disc occurs when the soft, jelly-like fluid inside a disc presses against the disc’s outer wall and pushes the disc into the spinal canal. A herniated disc occurs when the soft, jelly-like inner fluid pushes out of a tear in the disc wall and leaks into the spinal canal.
A bulging or herniated disc can irritate or compress spinal nerve roots in the spine. When compression occurs in the cervical spine, it causes radiating pain, weakness, numbness and tingling down the neck, shoulder, arm and hand. When compression occurs in the lumbar spine, it causes radiating pain, weakness, numbness and tingling down the low back, buttock, leg and foot.
Surgery Overview: Discectomy
On the day of surgery, you’ll be put to sleep under general anesthesia. Your surgeon will make a small incision over the affected area and roll muscles and tendons aside to access the damaged disc. He or she will insert a small camera, light, and surgical tools to perform the surgery. Your surgeon will remove the piece of disc that’s compressing a spinal nerve, thus relieving the pressure that’s contributing to your pain and symptoms.
During the procedure, your surgeon may also perform a foraminotomy, laminotomy or laminectomy, or spinal fusion to resolve remaining issues.
Once surgery is complete, the surgeon will close the incision and you’ll be taken to a recovery room until you wake up.
All surgical procedures have risks. Bleeding, blood clots, nerve damage, anesthesia reaction, and infection are the common risks associated with a discectomy. Additionally, there’s the risk that surgery will fail to relieve pain and symptoms afterward.
Many minimally invasive discectomies can be performed as outpatient procedures. In that case, you’ll be able to return home the same day as surgery. After you’ve been awake for an hour or two post-surgery, your doctor will encourage you to get up and walk around if you’re able. Early movement helps reduce pain and stiffness. You’ll likely experience some pain and discomfort following surgery — pain medications, rest, and ice therapy can help relieve these symptoms.
A discectomy is effective at relieving leg pain and other symptoms for many people. During your recovery, staying active by walking and attending physical therapy will help you regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion. You may have some movement restrictions for a few weeks post-surgery. Your doctor will let you know what they are.
Many people are able to return to work, driving, and normal activities within a few weeks. You should always follow your doctor’s medical advice for when you can return to your normal activities.
BEST Is a Leader in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
At BEST Surgery and Therapies, our board-certified surgeons perform the latest techniques in minimally invasive surgical (MIS) spine surgeries, such as endoscopy and micro-instrument techniques. We perform a wide range of surgeries for back, neck, and leg pain, including foraminotomies, laminotomies/laminectomies, discectomies, and spinal fusions.
Using minimally invasive techniques, we’re able to perform complex procedures such as spine motion preservation, total joint replacements and fusions safely, with the highest quality outcomes at a much lower cost than hospital care. Our spine surgeries are performed in our on-site ASC.
Don’t let back or neck pain hold you back. Please call us to speak with a dedicated Patient Experience Coordinator and schedule your first appointment in our Cincinnati, OH healthcare facility.