Broad disc protrusion refers to the percentage of the total disc circumference that is extending beyond its designated perimeter. While a focal disc protrusion involves less than 90 degrees of the total disc circumference, a broad disc protrusion involves 90-180 degrees of the total disc circumference. To more fully understand this condition, it is important to have a working knowledge of the spine and its parts.
The spine is a complex system of vertebrae, facet joints, muscles, ligaments, and intervertebral discs. These discs, made of connective tissue, serve a protective structural function for the spine, while allowing substantial movement. As we age, these discs degenerate. This is commonly referred to as degenerative disc disease. Discs become thinner, drier, less elastic and more prone to damage. One resulting condition is disc protrusion, in which the intervertebral disc presses past its cylindrical perimeter and protrudes into the spinal canal.
While medical specialists may use terms like disc protrusion and bulging disc interchangeably, others distinguish disc protrusions as a bulge or protrusion that involves less than half (180 degrees or less) of the oval-shaped disc’s circumference. A bulging disc, on the other hand, can involve more than 180 degrees of the disc’s circumference. Consequently, protruding discs may be viewed as slightly more serious than bulging discs because, with protrusion, more pressure is placed on a smaller area of the disc, possibly making the protrusion extend further into the central vertebral canal.
Broad disc protrusion produces symptoms, like numbness, tingling, and pain, only when the disc impinges on a nerve root and/or the spinal cord. Some common methods that physicians employ to confirm a diagnosis of broad disc protrusion include the following:
- Medical history and physical – you will need to accurately describe the location and nature of all symptoms to your physician. Your physician will want to know about how frequently the symptoms appear and when they started.
- Lasegue test – a leg stretching and hip flexor test that could determine if you have a lumbar disc protrusion (a disc protrusion in your lumbar (lower) spine region).
- MRI or CT scan – advanced medical imagery tests.
- Steroid injections – if anti-inflammatory injections administered in specific locations ease your pain, it can help your physician pinpoint what section of your spine may be suffering from intervertebral disc protrusion.
Treatments of all types may be divided into two categories, symptomatic treatment and curative treatment. Symptomatic treatment seeks to suppress symptoms, not correct the cause of the symptoms. Curative treatment seeks to eliminate symptoms by removing the cause of the symptom, not the symptom itself. Conservative treatments are usually symptomatic treatments while curative treatments are usually surgical in nature. A regimen of conservative, nonsurgical treatments is usually very effective in managing the symptoms of a protruded disc. Examples of conservative treatment are physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, pain medication, massage, and a variety of other more exotic choices. These nonsurgical techniques can be great ways to mitigate pain and other symptoms. However, in some cases, patients do not respond to conservative treatment and surgical treatment is prescribed. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, offering efficacious procedures with shorter convalescent period and lower risk when compared with traditional open spine surgery of all types. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information.