What is an annular tear and when do I need surgery?

An annular tear is a rip in the outer portion of one of the discs that cushions the spine. This condition can cause pain in the disc, as well as radiating weakness, numbness and discomfort. Patients who are considering annular tear surgery have usually tried a range of nonsurgical treatment options to address their symptoms. Although these methods are effective for most people, some find more meaningful relief through surgery.

What surgery addresses

In many cases, patients who choose to have annular tear surgery actually have ruptured discs. Annular tears don’t always cause severe symptoms by themselves beyond localized pain, but tears can worsen, allowing the inner gel-like portion of a disc to leak into the spinal canal. That gel can inflame tissues and place pressure on the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root, causing any number of problems along the affected nerve’s pathway.

For this reason, surgery often involves alleviating the pressure on — or decompressing — trapped nerves. This goal can be met by removing part or all of an affected disc. Cases that involve total removal of a disc may also include the placement of an artificial disc or a spinal fusion procedure as a way of stabilizing the spinal column.

Different surgical approaches

Although the general goal of annular tear surgery remains largely the same no matter the specific approach, patients should understand that there are two main types of surgery available to them: traditional, open spine surgery and the safer, effective minimally invasive surgery offered by Laser Spine Institute.

As compared to traditional open spine, surgery, some of the benefits of Laser Spine Institute’s procedures include:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Shorter recovery times^
  • Reduced risk of complications
  • Performed on an outpatient basis

To find out more about Laser Spine Institute’s approach to annular tear surgery, and to learn if you may be a candidate, contact us today.