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A discectomy is the complete or partial removal of an intervertebral disc in order to alleviate neck or back pain and other debilitating symptoms. This is highly invasive surgery, often involving artificial disc replacement (ADR) and spinal fusion, and requires a lengthy recuperation. Because of its radical nature, discectomy is generally only considered for patients who have received no discernable relief after weeks or months of treatment using conservative methods such as physical therapy, pain medication or behavior modification. Few patients undergo true discectomy; rather they undergo discotomy or alteration of an intervertebral disc. The disc is altered in that the center gelatinous nucleopalopsis is removed.

Conditions Treated by Discectomy

The intervertebral discs, spongy cushions between the vertebrae, tend to lose water content and become brittle as we age. This condition is called degenerative disc disease. Deteriorating discs are a major cause of spinal nerve compression. As the disc degenerates, the adjacent vertebrae grow closer, narrowing the space through which the spinal nerves travel en route to the periphery of the body. This narrowing compresses the spinal nerve, causing pain and/or dysfunction. The decompression surgery treating this condition is called foramenoplasty. When a disc herniates or bulges, the pathologic tissue may push against a spinal nerve, resulting in severe pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the relative muscle. This is the main reason patients may be treated by discectomy surgery (technically discotomy surgery). Other degenerative spine conditions include:

  • Herniated disc – occurs when the outer disc wall ruptures or tears and a portion of the gelatinous nucleus material seeps into the spinal canal. It is treated with discotomy.
  • Bulging disc – occurs when the outer disc wall weakens and pressure from within the nucleus forces the wall outside of its normal boundary. It is treated with discotomy.
  • Spinal stenosis – the narrowing of the spinal canal, either because of a degenerative condition or traumatic injury. This condition is treated with foramenotomy.
  • Spondylolisthesis – the slippage of one vertebra over another. The degree of slippage dictates the surgical treatment.
  • Arthritis of the spine – occurs within the facet joints of the spine, located in the posterior portion of each vertebra. These joints allow forward flexion but prevent more than a slight rotation. When these joints become arthritic, back pain (not leg pain) results from flexion motion and prolonged standing.
  • Bone spurs – bony growths that occur as the body tries to compensate for diminished stability, usually as a result of osteoarthritise

Minimally Invasive Option

Rather than agree to a life-disrupting back surgery such as open discectomy, tens of thousands of chronic pain sufferers have found relief at Laser Spine Institute. The orthopedic specialists at Laser Spine Institute treat degenerative spine conditions with minimally invasive outpatient procedures using safe, effective endoscopic techniques. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more, or for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.

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