A discectomy is done to remove a herniated disc from the spinal canal.
When a disc herniation occurs, a fragment of the normal spinal disc is
dislodged, which may press against the spinal cord or surrounding nerves.
This pressure causes symptoms characteristic of herniated discs.
Determining If You're a Candidate for Discectomy
In deciding whether to recommend surgery, your orthopedic surgeon will
look for a history of persistent leg pain, weakness, and limitation of
daily activities that has not gotten better with at least 4 weeks of nonsurgical
treatment. Your surgeon will order diagnostic testing to determine if
your herniated disc will respond to surgery.
These diagnostic tests may include the following:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Computed Tomography (CT)
Open vs. Endoscopic Discectomy
The surgical treatment of a herniated disc is to remove the fragment of
spinal disc that is causing the pressure on the nerve. The traditional
surgery is called an open discectomy. An
open discectomy is a procedure where the surgeon uses a small incision and looks at the
actual herniated disc in order to remove the disc and relieve the pressure
on the nerve. Your surgeon may decide you will benefit most from a procedure
endoscopic discectomy. In an endoscopic discectomy, instead of actually looking at the herniated
disc fragment and removing it, your surgeon uses a small camera to find
the fragment and special instruments to remove it.
What to Expect from the Procedure
A discectomy is normally performed under general anesthesia. The procedure
takes about an hour, depending on several factors. You will most likely
be admitted as an inpatient for a one night stay, although in some cases,
it can be done in an outpatient surgical center. Many people awaken from
surgery with complete resolution of their leg pain, however, it is not
unusual for the pain to slowly dissipate. Most people find relief of much,
if not all, of their symptoms from a discectomy.
What to Expect After a Discectomy
After, you will be encouraged to get out of bed and walk as soon as the
anesthetic wears off. A member of our physical therapy team will consult
with your orthopedic surgeon in order to develop personalized recommendations
for you. As you follow the physical therapist’s recommendations
and begin your recovery, you must avoid lifting heavy objects, and you
should try not to bend or twist the back excessively. Your surgeon will
tell you when you are cleared for strenuous activity.
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