Posterolateral disc extrusion

A posterolateral disc extrusion refers to a disc that has herniated and leaked nucleus material (inner disc fluid) toward the back (posterior) and side (laterally) of the spinal canal. Where the disc leaks fluid is relevant because the spinal canal also hosts several nerve roots, which can be compressed by the inner disc fluid and create severe pain.

A disc extrusion, especially a posterolateral disc extrusion, is one of the most common forms of degenerative disc disease. This condition often develops in adults over the age of 50 as a result of the natural weakening and deterioration of the spine with age.

The discs serve as cushions for the vertebrae and are composed of gel-like inner material (nucleus pulposus) and a tough outer wall (annulus fibrosus). As the body ages, discs lose water and elasticity and the wall begins to weaken. Fissures, or tears, can develop within the wall, allowing nucleus material to seep into the spinal canal.

Diagnosing a posterolateral disc extrusion

A damaged disc does not always cause symptoms. In fact, pain and symptoms are only experienced if the disc material presses against a nerve root in the spinal canal. This type of nerve compression can result in chronic neck or back pain, tingling or numbness in the extremities, or unexplained muscle weakness.

To find an effective treatment for your pain, talk to your physician about your symptoms and be prepared for a thorough diagnostic rundown, including:

  • Q&A with your physician — Questions about location, duration and severity of pain, numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Neurological exam — Reflex response testing to determine level of sensory or motor function
  • Physical exam — Tests for range of motion and muscle strength
  • X-ray — Routine imaging to determine cause and severity of condition
  • Additional imaging — MRI, CT scan or myelography, to pinpoint the exact location of a pinched or irritated nerve root

Treatment for posterolateral disc extrusion

More often than not, symptoms associated with a herniated disc can be relieved using conservative treatment methods. These include prescription or over-the-counter pain medicine, physical therapy, exercise, stretching, corticosteroid injections, behavior modification and other methods.

However, conservative treatments only reduce the symptoms of the condition and do not treat the damaged disc itself. These methods are often used to relieve the pain of a mildly damaged disc while the body heals itself through the natural resorption process. This process can take up to several months before any real pain relief is experienced.

If your pain still persists after several months of therapy, spine surgery may be your best method of treatment. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.

For patients with a disc extrusion, a discectomy procedure, sometimes coupled with a stabilization surgery for more severe cases, could be the most effective treatment option available. A minimally invasive discectomy surgery removes the portion of the damaged disc that is pressing against the trapped nerve root. This is done through a less than 1-inch incision without affecting the large muscles surrounding the spine. In some cases, the entire disc must be removed and replaced with an artificial one to maintain the right support and stability in the spine. This is accomplished with a stabilization surgery.

For more information about the benefits of our minimally invasive surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.