Orange County Neurosurgery

What is a Discectomy?

A discectomy is a procedure done to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves caused by a herniated disc. This is done by removing the dislodged fragment to give the nerves in the spine more room. This procedure normally goes hand-in-hand with a laminotomy or the removal of a piece of bone from a part of the spine called the lamina to be able to reach the inter-vertebral disc. Several newer and less invasive techniques have been developed to accomplish the same feat, but in most cases of herniated discs, surgery is still the best option in order to get relief from the pain caused by this condition.

Good Candidates for This Procedure

People who undergo open discectomy are those who have gone through extensive diagnostic testing to determine the extent of the damage the herniated disc is causing. From the test results, a doctor or surgeon would decide whether a patient is a good candidate for this procedure or if they are better off with something less invasive. The factors that affect this decision involve the extent of the herniated disc, the patient’s age, as well as his or her overall health condition.

Most of the people who go through with the surgery suffer from intense pain and a feeling of numbness in their legs or feet. This procedure is also done on people with sciatica – especially when the herniated disc is putting pressure on the sciatic nerve in the spine, causing pain in the legs that is worse than the back pain. Those who have not found relief from medication, physical therapy, and other non-surgical treatments are also good candidates for this procedure.

How Discectomy Is Done

This procedure normally takes an hour to perform, except when there are more than one disc affected or if other factors that may contribute to the delay arise. If that is the case, the surgery can take longer than expected. A patient undergoing this surgery is put under general anesthesia and is positioned facing down on the operating table for better access. Once the anesthesia has taken effect and the patient is properly positioned on the table, the surgeon can proceed to make an incision measuring about 3 inches down the middle of the patient’s back.

Muscles and tissue are pushed aside using a retractor to gain access to the lamina or the bony part of the spinal column. The surgeon then performs a laminotomy to remove a piece of bone and the ligaments attached in order to gain access to the herniated disk. By removing a small piece of bone, the surgeon also protects the nerves in the spine from damage. Once the laminotomy is done, the next step would be to find the herniated disc using a surgical microscope and carefully begin the extraction.

The extraction only involves the ruptured fragments and not the entire disc; however, bone spurs and other fragments may also be extracted in order to completely decompress the nerves in the spine. When the disc is cleared of all the herniated fragments and bone spurs, the surgeon can then remove the retractor holding the muscles in place and begin suturing the incision shut.

If you’re interested in a discectomy and want more information on how the procedure is done, call us and schedule an appointment with one of our highly skilled surgeons.

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