Herniated disc surgery — when it may be necessary and the different options available to patients

Herniated disc surgery is almost always considered the treatment of last resort when conservative techniques have been unable to provide the patient with sufficient pain relief. Generally speaking, spine surgery can be categorized into two types: traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. While each type of procedure offers different advantages and disadvantages and are completely different in intrusiveness and approach, they both are intended to relieve nerve compression and offer lasting relief from chronic pain.

Why surgery may be warranted

The good news when it comes to a herniated disc is that this condition is extremely common and typically responds to a carefully planned course of conservative treatments. The important thing to understand about a herniated disc is that the actual act of the disc rupturing is rarely symptomatic or painful. Only when disc material compresses a nearby spinal nerve will symptoms arise. However, after several weeks of low-impact exercise, heat therapy, tissue massage, prescription medication and other conservative treatments, many patients report meaningful pain relief as a result of nerve decompression. For some people, though, several weeks or months of conservative treatment might not prove effective, in which case herniated disc surgery may be considered.

Minimally invasive and traditional open spine options

Herniated disc surgery can be performed in one of two ways:

  • Traditional open spine herniated disc surgery. A team of spinal surgeons accesses the spinal canal through a large incision in the neck or back. Soft tissue is disrupted, and the herniated disc is sometimes fully removed and replaced with a graft or bone matrix. In this case, the affected vertebrae are stabilized with hardware, and the surgery is complete. Recovery and rehabilitation can take several months.
  • Minimally invasive surgery. The patient is sedated and the spine surgeon makes a small incision. Muscle tissue is pushed aside, and the nerve compression is accessed. The herniated disc material is carefully removed, and the procedure is completed. Recovery and rehabilitation are shorter compared to open spine surgery.^

Laser Spine Institute

At Laser Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally invasive procedures, which are far less invasive than other herniated disc surgery techniques and have little risk for postoperative complications.^ As an outpatient alternative to traditional open spinal fusion, we also perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures. To learn whether you’re a candidate for one of our procedures, we can perform a free MRI review.* Contact us today for more information.

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