Disc protrusion surgery

Disc protrusion surgery — an option for people who haven’t found relief from conservative treatments

Disc protrusion surgery can be used to address a damaged intervertebral disc that juts out beyond its normal boundary within the spine. These discs serve a cushions for the components of the spine, absorbing the impact from motions like walking, bending and turning, and they can become worn down in many ways — typically through the normal aging process. As the body gets older, the water content of the discs can decrease, causing discs to become flatter. The elasticity of the cartilage in the exterior shell of the intervertebral discs can also become reduced, leaving them less able to return to their original position following the exertion of pressure. These issues can weaken the outer shell of a disc, allowing the inner gelatinous material push out against the disc wall and cause the disc to bulge beyond its normal position (referred to as a bulging disc). The wall of a disc also can develop a tear (a herniated disc) and potentially even allow the inner core material to leak out of the disc entirely.

A torn disc may or may not be painful in and of itself, but any misshapen disc has the potential to cause symptoms if the bulging or herniated portion of the disc impinges on nearby nerve roots or the spinal cord itself. When that occurs, the person may feel pain, weakness, numbness and other seemingly unrelated symptoms that radiate along the affective nerves. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck might cause numbness in a shoulder or hand, while one in the lower back could lead to pain in the buttocks, legs and feet.

To address the problematic symptoms, physicians may recommend that their patients begin a regimen of conservative treatments. Such approaches can include physical therapy, low-impact exercise, heat and cold therapy, gentle stretches and over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Open spine disc extrusion surgery

For patients who are unable to find relief from their symptoms through weeks or months of conservative treatments, it may be helpful to consider having disc extrusion surgery to alleviate their pain and other related issues. Traditional neck and back surgeries are highly invasive and require large incisions along the spine so surgeons can access the affected areas. Because these incisions can be extensive and because muscles must often be cut in order to access the spine, healing can be a lengthy, arduous process.

Some of the procedures that are most frequently performed on patients who have disc extrusion issues include:

  • Discectomy — Removes a damaged disc to alleviate the pressure it places on surrounding nerve roots
  • Laminectomy — Removes the “roof” of a vertebra to decompress the spinal cord; often used to treat spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal canal caused by bulging discs, bone spurs and other abnormal spinal components
  • Implantation of artificial discs — Replaces a damaged disc with an artificial one to reestablish proper spine height and flexibility
  • Fusion surgeries — Stabilizes the spine by grafting two adjacent vertebrae together after removing the disc between them

Minimally invasive disc extrusion surgery options at Laser Spine Institute

Some patients decide that traditional spine surgeries may not be their best options, so they look into other alternatives, including the minimally invasive procedures offered by Laser Spine Institute. Our surgeries fall into two major categories – minimally invasive decompression procedures and minimally invasive stabilization procedures.

Minimally invasive decompression surgeries are utilized for patients who need help relieving pressure from nerve roots or the spinal cord. Our experienced surgeons perform the following minimally invasive decompression procedures:

  • Laminotomy — Similar to a traditional laminectomy, this procedure involves the removal of only a portion of the lamina to create more space for the spinal cord.
  • Foraminotomy — This procedure involves cleaning out the openings of the spine to decompress nerve roots.
  • Discectomy — This procedure removes just a portion of an intervertebral disc with the same aim as a traditional discectomy, but using much less invasive methods.
  • Facet thermal ablation — This process involves obliterating the nerve within a facet joint to alleviate pain.

For more severe or advanced spinal conditions, our minimally invasive stabilization (MIS) procedures may be an appropriate option. Laser Spine Institute surgeons can complete the following MIS procedures:

  • Posterior cervical fusion — Our surgeons fuse together two or more adjacent vertebrae in the in the upper (cervical) portion of the spine using a small incision on the back of the neck. This procedure is primarily used to treat spinal instability or deformity, severe intervertebral disc herniation or myelopathy.
  • Anterior cervical discectomy fusion — Using a small incision in the front of the neck, our surgeons can remove a damaged disc and fill the disc space using a bone graft.
  • Cervical disc replacement — For some patients having a discectomy, replacing a damaged disc with an artificial one may be a viable option to better stabilize the spine.
  • Lateral lumbar interbody fusion — This procedure is used to address a variety of lower back problems by accessing the spine via small incisions on the side of the body. From there, our surgeons can remove portions of damaged intervertebral discs and restore proper disc height using a spacer and a bone graft that will eventually fuse the adjacent vertebrae together.
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion — To address certain lumbar spine conditions, our surgeons take a unilateral approach, accessing the spine through one small incision on the side of the back without the need for retracting nerve roots as much as a PLIF (posterior lumbar interbody fusion) procedure requires.
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint fusion — When the SI joint, which connects the sacrum to the pelvis, is causing pain, our surgeons can fuse the two spinal components together.
  • Decompression with Interlaminar Stabilization™ device — Used to address spinal stenosis, this procedure involves decompressing a pinched nerve and inserting a coflex® device to restabilize the spine and perhaps prevent future nerve compression in the area.

If you’d like to learn more about the minimally invasive disc extrusion surgery procedures that Laser Spine Institute performs, contact us today. You can also receive a review of your MRI scan.