A discectomy, sometimes called a microdiscectomy, is a minimally invasive spinal procedure that involves using a surgical microscope and microsurgical techniques to remove part of a damaged disc that is compressing the nerve roots. By providing magnification and illumination, the microscope allows for a limited dissection. Only that portion of the herniated disc, which is pinching one or more nerve roots, is removed.
Bulging, protruding, and herniated discs are caused by a weakness in the outer rim of the disc (annulus). The inner part of the disc (nucleus pulposus) then herniates or bulges out through the annulus and compresses a spinal nerve. This can result in severe back/neck pain, leg/arm pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. The goal of a discectomy is to relieve the pressure on the nerve root, thus alleviating pain.
How is the discectomy performed?
A very small incision less than an inch long is made in the back at the level being treated. A small tube is placed in between the muscle fibers to preserve muscles, tendons and ligaments. Through the small tube, specialized instruments and microscopes are used to create a small window in the bone. The nerves are gently moved to the side and the piece of disc material that is compressing the nerve is removed. The remaining majority of the disc is left intact.
How long is recovery?
This minimally invasive discectomy is typically performed on an outpatient basis. As with all minimally invasive procedures, the discectomy is less likely to cause extensive scarring or require an extended recovery than traditional open back surgery. Many patients will notice immediate improvement of some or all of their symptoms; however, other symptoms may improve more gradually. Many patients who undergo a discectomy can often return to their regular activities within several weeks. Recovery will include rest, physical therapy, and a variable course of pain management medication.
Why North American Spine?
Our partnered physicians are specialized and highly experienced in minimally invasive techniques, so patients experience a quicker recovery time, better surgical outcome, and reduced post-operative risks in comparison to open spine surgeries. Also, remember that your Patient Care Manager is here to guide you the whole way—our goal is to make sure you feel informed, cared for, and comfortable throughout every step of your care.