Surgical Approaches to Diskectomy

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A discectomy or discectomy can be either a major or minor surgery, depending on the method of removal used. By definition, it is the surgical removal of the damaged portion of a herniated disk in your spine. When a herniated disc is damaged it can cause irritation or pressure on nerves and result in pain, numbness, or weakness. One or more of these feeling can also spread to the arms or legs. The goal of the surgery is generally to relieve these symptoms, the pain numbness and weakness in the arms and legs, it is usually not used to relieve the back or neck pain.

A discectomy will not be the first step of treatment. Most doctors will try to treat the condition with pain medication and physical therapy. When both of these options are exhausted, then the different options for surgery will be discussed.

The more traditional form of discectomy is more invasive and actually involves larger incisions and a larger dose of anesthesia used. Muscle stripping and longer operating times are normal for this surgery in comparison with the alternatives. With this surgery the patient will require hospitalization and more time to recuperate. This method was first published in 1971 by Ross and Love. It is also called Love’s technique.

The second type of surgery, the microdiscectomy is the process of removing a small part of the bone over the nerve root to provide room the nerve to heal and relieve pain. This surgery is minimally invasive and has a shorter time required performing it, smaller doses of anesthesia during surgery and less time spent recuperating. The work is done with very precise instruments through small incisions in the body, as opposed to the larger of the traditional discectomy.

The third option, an endoscopic discectomy is exactly as it sounds, done with an endoscope. The scope is inserted through the skin of the back and through the vertebrae, and into the damaged disc space. The probe is outfitted with precise tools that then remove a part of the herniated disc. In this surgery only local anesthesia is used along with the help of x-ray fluoroscopy and magnified video.

Perhaps one of the simplest surgeries is the laser discectomy. This is an outpatient procedure that uses just one needle to probe into the disc space. Once there the needle doesn’t remove anything, it actually burns the nucleus pulposus, the part of the disc causing the pain. This surgery is minimally invasive, inexpensive and is becoming increasingly popular.

Both of these surgeries work in the same way, they treat the nucleus pulposus of the damaged disc in some way to relieve pain. All surgeries have risks, there is no argument on that, but by choosing one of the less invasive, more recent surgeries you can be surer of a safe and full recovery.

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