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Discectomy Surgery for Bulging or Deteriorating Discs

What Are Spinal Discs?

Your back is composed of spinal bones known as vertebrae that stack on top of each other and allow you to bend, twist and stretch. In between these vertebrae are discs, which have a tough outer core and a gelatinous material inside the core. These vertebrae act much like the cushy material in your tennis shoes, helping to absorb shock from lifting and high-impact activities. Over time, the disc starts to lose water, which means you have less support between your spinal vertebrae. This condition is known as spinal disc degeneration, which can cause intense pain that worsens with time.

In addition to disc degeneration, the discs can slip out of place, which is known as a herniated disc. Because your spinal column is composed of a number of delicate nerves, the herniated disc can press on nerves and cause pain and discomfort. A disc can herniate in any area of your spine, but are more likely to occur in the cervical spine around your neck or the lumbar spine in the lower back.

Some common symptoms associated with a herniated disc include:

  • Numbness and tingling that runs to the fingers
  • Leg pain and numbness, particularly for the lumbar disc
  • Foot pain, if the condition progresses

Spinal Discectomy

Unlike your skin tissue, injured nerves can take a significant amount of time to heal. If spinal discs continue to press on the nerves, this can slow healing further and may cause permanent damage if left untreated. That’s where spinal discectomy can come in: This procedure type involves removing the damaged or dislodged spinal disc portion and any extra disc fragments to keep the disc from pressing on the nerves.

Discectomy may be indicated if you experience any of the following:

  • Leg or neck pain, numbness and weakness that keeps you from performing daily activities
  • Leg pain that does not improve after four weeks
  • Loss of motion and weakness in your body

 

In some instances, discectomy can be performed as an emergency surgery if the disc is causing a condition known as cauda equina syndrome where you cannot control your bowel or bladder and experience numbness and tingling in your legs.

Discectomy Types

Discectomy can be further divided into the spinal area targeted. miVIP Surgery Centers partners with neurological surgeon Israel Chambi, MD, FACS, an expert in conditions affecting the peripheral nerves and brachial plexus, to perform these procedures.

Cervical discectomy is surgery performed on damaged or herniated discs in your neck. At miVIP Surgery Centers, cervical discectomy is performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the day of your surgery. Additionally, you will not have to wear a special collar following cervical discectomy. Recovery can take anywhere from four to six weeks, and it may take longer to for you to experience significant relief from pain or numbness because nerves take some time to heal. You can discuss activity limitations and/or restrictions with your miVIP Surgery Centers surgeon.

Like cervical discectomy, lumbar discectomy can be performed as an outpatient procedure. Your surgeon will make a small incision in your back to access a portion of your spine. After removing the tissue around the nerves, your physician will remove any damaged disc material, fragments and bone spurs that may have collected due to your vertebrae rubbing against each other.

Your surgeon will likely recommend you wear a back brace to facilitate healing and minimize post-surgical pain. While patients traditionally have to wear a back brace for several weeks to months following lumbar discectomy, patients at miVIP Surgery Centers typically wear a brace for only about two weeks.

Risks and Rewards

While your surgeon will work to minimize post-surgery complications, there are risks associated with spinal discectomy. These include bleeding, infection and nerve damage. Spinal cord damage risks are rare, occurring in about 1 in 10,000 patients.

Because your surgeon has removed the damaged disc material, risk for recurrence of disc herniation is rare. Once your nerves have time to heal, you may experience a return to function and less pain, tingling and numbness, allowing you to maintain a more active lifestyle.

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