A discectomy is a common surgical procedure, especially for patients with injured or aging spinal discs. Although the surgery may cause some discomfort and radiculopathy, the likelihood that a patient recovers from these complications is high. What is a discectomy? Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) offers some insights into the procedure and the benefits of seeking treatment early. CNSO serves patients throughout northern New Jersey.
What Is a Discectomy, and Why Is It Performed?
A discectomy is a surgical procedure to alleviate the pressure on a nerve or the spinal cord itself caused by a slipped disc, otherwise known as a herniated disc. During this procedure, the patient will be under general anesthesia while the surgeon removes either just the piece of the disc that is compressing the nerve or removes and replaces the entire disc itself. If the neurosurgeon or spine surgeon needs to remove the disc completely, the patient will undergo an artificial disc replacement, called a total arthroplasty, or a spinal fusion. In some cases, small portions of spinal bone and ligament may also need to be removed.
A simple, one-level discectomy is a minimally-invasive procedure with less than a 2 cm incision. Any scar thereafter would be less than 2 cm. It often is recommended for patients with herniated or slipped discs who are unresponsive to non-invasive treatment options, epidurals or transforaminal injections.
Benefits of a Successful Discectomy
A herniated or slipped disk can greatly impact a person’s ability to work, enjoy leisure activities, and sleep. Patients with a pinched nerve or spinal cord compression due to a herniated disc may obtain a discectomy to eliminate the symptoms caused by the offending parts of the disc if an epidural steroid injection fails to help or if there is myelopathy or weakness in the affected limb. Some symptoms of these conditions include:
- Pain that radiates from the back to other parts of the body
- Radiculopathy – discomfort traveling from the spine and down and extremity
- Numbness and tingling down an extremity
- Extremity muscle weakness
- Loss of bowel function
- Loss of bladder function
The surgeon may find it necessary to recommend surgical options if there is additional pathology near the herniated disc that may have caused the herniation. Surgery may also be needed for stabilization after removing the offending portion of the disc. The goal of any spine surgery is to restore and secure spine stability.
Successful Outcomes with a Discectomy
Discectomies should only be done by a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon fellowship-trained in spine surgery. The neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics have state-of-the-art technology and equipment to safely treat each patient. Typically, a CNSO patient who only requires a discectomy will undergo a one-hour procedure at a surgical center or a hospital of their choice and then go home the same day pain-free.
Recovery from a discectomy performed by a CNSO surgeon should only last a short period. The patient will be asked to avoid heavy lifting for at least six weeks. The team at CNSO will train each patient on the proper form to lift heavy objects, which will prevent reoccurrence.
Lifestyle Changes May Improve Spinal Health
To prevent future spinal disc issues, the patient may need to make meaningful lifestyle changes to improve their spine’s health and help lower the chances of recurrence. While not all of the following lifestyle changes apply to every patient, some the doctor may suggest include:
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Strengthening, stretching, and low-impact exercises
- Proper form when lifting objects
- Limiting extreme bending, twisting, or lifting
- Smoking cessation
At Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, highly trained healthcare professionals specialize in different areas of medicine to provide comprehensive, personalized care to each patient. The team also coordinates to explore non-invasive treatment options before recommending surgery. This means that patients can receive physical therapy for disc disorders that limit mobility and epidural injection to improve pain relief. For more information about discectomy and other types of back surgery, contact Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics today.