Disc surgery — traditional methods

The thought of disc surgery can be overwhelming and — honestly — a little scary. Disc surgery is a form of open spine surgery, and while there are some great benefits to the procedure, there are also great risks associated with it.

Before you undergo traditional disc surgery, you should thoroughly research your surgical options and make a confident decision about your treatment. There are several types of disc surgery available to treat conditions like a bulging disc or herniated disc, and you should research each option before committing to one procedure.

If you have questions as you are researching the different surgical options available to you, we encourage you to reach out to our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute for more information.

Types of traditional open back disc surgery

Traditional open back surgery is a highly invasive procedure that involves a large incision that usually tears and detaches the muscles near the spine. This invasive approach often increases a patient’s risk of infection and complications, as well as excessive blood loss.

Examples of traditional disc surgery include:

  • Anterior cervical decompression — This surgery is designed to treat a cervical bulging disc or herniated disc. During the procedure, a surgeon will make a 1- to 2-inch incision in the side of the neck to access the damaged disc. Once the damaged disc is located, the surgeon will remove the disc and a corresponding ligament. Then, bone that has been taken from a donor site in the body is used to fill the space where the bulging or herniated disc used to be. This encourages the vertebrae above and below the damaged disc to grow together, or fuse, permanently. Possible complications from this disc surgery include difficulty swallowing (because of the location of the incision), failure to relieve neck or back pain symptoms, and damage to the nerve root or spinal cord.
  • Spinal fusion surgery — This surgery is designed to permanently stop deteriorating vertebrae from moving. By immobilizing damaged vertebrae, it is believed pain should be relieved. For this procedure, a surgeon will use a bone graft to encourage two adjacent vertebrae to become one bone. The graft may come from a donor site in the patient’s hip, from a cadaver, or from an artificial bone substitute. To keep the graft in place until it has a chance to grow, a surgeon may use screws and other implants.
  • Artificial disc replacement surgery — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of artificial discs to replace damaged spinal discs in the lower (or lumbar) region of the back. This disc surgery is so new, however, that long-term results are not known. To replace a lumbar bulging disc or herniated disc with an artificial disc, the surgeon will make an incision in the abdomen, move abdominal tissue and organs out of the way, and then replace the damaged disc with the artificial disc. Like all invasive surgeries, artificial disc replacement surgery requires hospitalization, as well as weeks of recovery time and rehabilitation. Patients with an artificial disc also need to go to follow-up visits every year so that physicians can make sure the disc replacement is still in good shape.

Before moving forward with a traditional open back or open neck surgery, you should review the safer, effective surgical alternatives at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive discectomy procedures offer lower risks and higher patient satisfaction scores than traditional surgery.

Patients with a bulging disc may undergo a minimally invasive discectomy, which removes a small portion of the disc through a 1-inch, muscle-sparing incision or a minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization, which removes the entire damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc to maintain mobility and support.

Every month, more patients turn to Laser Spine Institute for minimally invasive spine surgery than to any other surgery center in the world. If you would like more information about how our minimally invasive procedures can treat your bulging disc pain and symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

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