A herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) typically does not require surgery. Also known as disc herniation, the condition occurs when an intervertebral disc becomes brittle with age or injury and the gel-like inner material leaks through a tear in the fibrous outer disc wall. More often than not, a herniated disc produces no symptoms at all, and the condition often heals itself through a process known as a resorption. However, when the extruded inner material compresses a nearby nerve root, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness can arise. If several weeks of alternative and?conservative treatment such as pain medicine and physical therapy prove ineffective for symptom management, surgery might become an option.
Potential Complications of HNP Surgery
A neurosurgeon might attempt to alleviate the symptoms associated with a herniated disc by performing a highly invasive procedure known as spinal fusion. In this type of HNP surgery, the disc is removed, and the adjoining vertebrae are fused together using screws, rods and plates. This type of treatment?requires a large incision, at least one night of hospitalization and a recovery period that can last a year or more. It also carries several potential complications, including:
- Fusion failure – a false joint, known as pseudoarthrosis, might develop if the bones don’t fuse as expected; additional surgery might be necessary.
- Anesthesia – a small percentage of patients experience adverse reactions to general anesthesia, including diminished lung function while unconscious.
- Blood clots – also known as thrombosis; steps must be taken by the surgical team to prevent serious thrombosis-related problems, including pulmonary embolism.
- Infection – this is relatively rare, but unpredictable; if it occurs beneath the skin, additional surgery might be required.
- Nerve damage – a surgical instrument that bumps or cuts a nerve can cause permanent damage.
Minimally Invasive Fusion Alternative
Laser Spine Institute offers a minimally invasive form of HNP surgery, which uses revolutionary endoscopic technology to target the source of painful nerve compression. Contact us today to learn how our orthopedic specialists may be able to help you rediscover your life without back and neck pain – and without the risks and long recovery period of spinal fusion.