Discectomy- Spinal Surgery

What is Discectomy?

Discectomy means “cutting out the disc”. It is the most commonly performed spinal surgery for lumbar discal herniation. It is a surgery to remove a herniated disc from the spinal canal. The main principal of a discectomy is to relieve the nerve root compression induced by the herniation. It can be performed anywhere along the spine from the neck (cervical) to the low back (lumbar).

A fragment of the normal spinal disc gets dislocated during a disc herniation. Now this dislocated fragment may cause pressure either on the spinal cord or on the nerves around the spinal cord. Due to the pressure, the person would have symptoms of herniated discs such as weakness, numbness, tingling, and electric shock pain.

Various techniques are available to perform a discectomy. An open discectomy is traditionally performed. During an open discectomy, the surgeon makes a small incision and looks at the actual herniated disc in order to remove the disc which in turn relieve the pressure on the nerve.

Which Doctor To Consult?

Disectomy is generally handled by an orthopedic surgeon

What to expect during the procedure?

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and takes about one to two hours. The patient is required to lay with face down and back pointing upwards. In the beginning, the surgeon makes an incision (around 3 cm long) in the middle of the back. Next, the muscles are carefully dissected away from the bone of the spine. Now, a small amount of bone and ligament from the back of the spine is removed by using special instruments. This step of the surgery is known as a laminotomy.

After removing the bone and ligament, the surgeon would be able to see and protect the spinal nerves. Once the surgeon finds the disc herniation, the herniated disc fragment is removed. In order to avoid another fragment of disc from herniating in the future, additional disc material may be removed depending on the condition of the remaining disc. Once the procedure is over, the muscle and skin incisions are closed by sutures or staples and a sterile bandage is placed across the incision.

What to expect after the procedure?

Patient may feel pain around the incision but it is very common and oral pain medications are prescribed to control the pain. Patient is generally discharged next day after the surgery. Depending on the patient the recovery time varies from 1 to 4 weeks. It is important to remember that the original pain may not be completely relieved right after the surgery. Patient must not lift heavy object and should avoid bending the back too much. Light activities such as walking or sitting upright are encouraged after surgery.

To read about Discectomy as one of the treatment options for Herniated Disc, please click here.



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About the Author:

Dr. Anand Lakhkar is a physician scientist from India. He completed his basic medical education from India and his postgraduate training in pharmacology from the United States. He has a MS degree in pharmacology from New York Medical College, a MS degree in Cancer/Neuro Pharmacology from Georgetown University and a PhD in Pharmacology from New York Medical College where he was the recipient of the Graduate Faculty Council Award for academic and research excellence.  His research area of expertise is in pulmonary hypertension, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular pharmacology.  He has multiple publications in international peer-reviewed journals and has presented his research at at prestigious conferences.