Diskectomy

Definition

Diskectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the cushion that helps support part of your spinal column. These cushions are called disks, and they separate your spinal bones (vertebrae).

Alternative Names

Spinal microdiskectomy; Microdecompression; Laminotomy; Disk removal; Spine surgery - diskectomy; Discectomy

Description

A surgeon may perform disk removal (diskectomy) in these different ways.

Microdiskectomy is done in a hospital or outpatient surgical center. You will be given spinal anesthesia (to numb your spine area) or general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).

Diskectomy and laminotomy are usually done in the hospital, using general anesthesia (asleep and pain-free).

Why the Procedure Is Performed

When one of your disks moves out of place (herniates), the soft gel inside pushes through the wall of the disk. The disk may then place pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that are coming out of your spinal column.

Many of the symptoms caused by a herniated disk get better or go away over time without surgery. Most people with low back or neck pain, numbness, or even mild weakness are often first treated with anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and exercise.

Only a few people with a herniated disk need surgery.

Your doctor may recommend a diskectomy if you have a herniated disk and:

If you are having problems with your bowels or bladder, or the pain is so bad that strong pain drugs do not help, you will probably have surgery right away.

Risks

Risks for anesthesia and surgery in general are:

Risks for this surgery are:

Before the Procedure

Tell your doctor or nurse what medicines you are taking, even medicines, supplements or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the days before the surgery:

On the day of the surgery:

After the Procedure

Your doctor or nurse will ask you to get up and walk around as soon as your anesthesia wears off. Most people go home the day of surgery. Do NOT drive yourself home.

Follow instructions about how to care for yourself at home.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Most people have pain relief and can move better after surgery. Numbness and tingling should get better or disappear. Your pain, numbness, or weakness may not get better or go away if you had nerve damage before surgery, or if you have symptoms caused by other spinal conditions.

Further changes may occur in your spine over time and new symptoms may occur.

Talk with your doctor about how to prevent future back problems.

References

Ehni BL, Satyan K. Lumbar discectomy. In: Benzel EC, ed. Spine Surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 78.

Gardocki RJ, Park AL. Lower back pain and disorders of intervertebral discs. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 42.

Kreiner DS, Hwang SW; North American Spine Society, et al. An evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy. Spine J. 2014;14(1):180-191. PMID: 24239490 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24239490.

Wilson AS, Samartzis D, Shen FH. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. In: Shen FH, Samartzis D, Fessler RG, eds. Textbook of the Cervical Spine. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 30.


Review Date: 5/9/2015
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Internal review and update on 08/05/2016 by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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