Intervertebral Discectomy

(Microdiscectomy; Microcompression Spine Surgery)

Definition

Intervertebral discs are located between each vertebra in the spinal column. When damaged, these discs can put pressure on nerves as they leave the spinal cord. An intervertebral discectomy is a back surgery that removes all or part of these discs. The procedure is most often done on lumbar discs (located in the lower back). It may also be done on cervical discs in the neck. There are two methods for this surgery:
  • Open—A large incision is made.
  • Microdiscectomy—Small incisions are made, and the doctor inserts tiny instruments through these incisions.

Reasons for Procedure

These discs normally serve as cushions between the bones. The discs can become damaged or dry with age. Injury can also cause a disc to bulge (or herniate ). These changes can create pressure on nerves leaving the spine. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness.
Laparoscopic discectomy
laparoscopic discectomy small
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The best time to have this surgery is debatable. For some, having early surgery may not result in less pain or disability. In most cases, surgery is only done after other treatments have failed. Other treatments typically include:
  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications
The goal of surgery is to eliminate pain, weakness, and numbness caused by the disc pressing on a nerve. You may feel relief right away, or it may take months for the nerve root to heal. In some cases, your symptoms may not improve. Your doctor will carefully evaluate you before surgery to determine what the best option is.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Bladder or bowel incontinence
  • Leakage of spinal fluid
  • Another herniated disc (may happen within the first 3 months after surgery)
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
  • Prior spine surgeries

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