Am I a candidate for herniated nucleus pulposus surgery?

You might be a candidate for herniated nucleus pulposus surgery, but it’s unlikely, especially if you haven’t yet tried any other treatments. More frequently referred to as a herniated disc, this common condition occurs when the tough outer shell of a spinal disc breaks open and allows some of the disc’s inner, gel-like material (nucleus pulposus) to seep out into the spinal canal. If you have a herniated nucleus pulposus, you might feel pain, numbness, weakness or tingling around the site of the injury. Or, if the escaped disc material is pressing on your spinal cord or a nerve root, you may be experiencing symptoms that follow the pathway of the affected nerve, like shooting pain.

Oftentimes, symptoms like these will go away on their own after a few weeks, or can be helped tremendously by nonsurgical treatments like medications and physical therapy. That’s why herniated nucleus pulposus surgery is almost always considered a last resort.

If you’ve tried everything else

Maybe you’ve diligently followed the physical therapy program recommended by your physician. Perhaps the pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications you’ve tried had little to no effect. If you and your physician determine that you’ve exhausted your nonsurgical treatment options, you may be a candidate for herniated nucleus pulposus surgery. To help you decide, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is your pain affecting your job performance or family life?
  • Do you find it difficult to walk, stand or sit for more than a few minutes at a time?
  • Do you automatically seek out places to sit and rest?
  • Do you feel more comfortable if you lean over a shopping cart while walking through a store?
  • Do you have numbness or muscle weakness in your legs that affects your balance or mobility?
  • Are you in a pain management program?

If you are a candidate for surgery

To address your unrelenting pain, a surgeon can perform an open spine procedure to remove the herniated disc material that is pressing on your spinal cord or nerve root (if appropriate for you). This traditional approach to herniated nucleus pulposus surgery is successful for some patients, but it does not come without drawbacks. For instance, due to its highly invasive nature, this technique generally requires a several-day hospital stay and a lengthy recovery period and also carries an elevated risk of infection, scarring and other surgical complications, such as the formation of scar tissue.

For some patients who require herniated nucleus pulposus surgery, there is another option. The skilled surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive surgeries that are safer and effective alternatives to open spine surgery.^ We offer two categories of surgeries: minimally invasive decompressions and minimally invasive stabilizations, both of which are performed on an outpatient basis.

If you’d like to find out if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive outpatient herniated nucleus pulposus surgery at Laser Spine Institute, contact us to request more information.

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