Discectomy is the surgical procedure usually performed to remove the herniated disc. The herniated disc material is the disc that passes over the spinal cord or nerve root. The central portion of the nucleus pulposus, an intervertebral disc is removed in the surgery. The removal of this disc is needed as it causes pain, as it stresses the radiating nerves or spinal cord. The result for this will be weakness and numbness also. The symptoms may spread and extend to the arms and sometimes to the legs also. There are advanced technology in discectomy, called endoscopic discectomy, microdiscectomy and laser discectomy.
Discectomy is useful to relieve the radiating symptoms, rather than actual neck pain or actual back pain. Most of the candidates get relief from the non-surgical and more conservative treatments, like physical therapy or pain medication. When these treatments are found no use, discectomy is recommended by the surgeons. The advanced technology and method of minimally invasive discectomy is widely recommended and conducted to ensure that small incisions would be enough to perform the surgery with fewer complications.
Need for Discectomy
Discectomy is recommended by the surgeons, when the candidates experience the following symptoms.
- Have the trouble to walk, stand, because of the weakness of the nerves.
- Non-surgical treatments are no more useful and continue to fail after six weeks of duration
- When the disk fragment gets lodged over the spinal canal, creating pressure on the nerve.
- When the pain radiates towards the arms, chest, legs and buttock and very difficult to manage
Before the surgery starts, the candidate has to stop eating before a few hours of time. Special medical conditions and medical history are to be discussed with the doctor.
Discectomy procedure starts with general anesthesia, so the candidate sleeps all the time, during the surgery and does not feel the pain. Anesthetic medication is also given in the form of gas, as the breathing is continued through a mask. Sometimes injection is given to the veins for the anesthesia. After making small incision, ligaments and small amount of the spinal bone are slowly removed, so that the herniated disc can be accessed. In the ideal conditions, only small fragment of the disc that cause the pinch to the nerve has to be removed, so that the pressure can be relieved. The rest of the disc intact is left. In some of the cases, the entire disc has to be removed, for specific conditions. In such cases, the space left after removing the disc has to be filled back, with a small bone piece. This small bone is either taken by own pelvis of the patient or from cadaver. Substitute synthetic bones do also serve the purpose. The vertebrae that is adjoining will then be fused each together with the help of metal hardware.
After discectomy is performed, the candidate is transferred to the recovery room. The patient will closely be monitored by the health care team. If there are no complications or hard medical conditions, the patient can be sent home on the same day. However, if there are any complications, stay will be extended in the hospital.
Risks and Recovery
Usual risks associated with the discectomy procedure are:
- Leakage of spinal fluid
- Injury to nerves present in and present around the spine
- Injury to blood vessels present in and present around the spine
- Injury to the spine surrounding protective layer
Returning to the work depends on what kind of activities is needed to be performed at the workplace, like sitting, walking, lifting, etc. Usually, six weeks of duration is needed for recovery. If heavy or hard work is involved in the work, the patient has to continue taking rest for at least 8 weeks of time.
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