Your guide to prolapsed disc surgery

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Prolapsed disc surgery is often performed as a last resort if conservative treatment has not been able to help manage neck pain, back pain or other symptoms associated with spinal discs that have prolapsed, torn, herniated or ruptured. Surgery also may be recommended if patients experience disabling symptoms, leaving them unable to take care of themselves or live a full, active life.

If you have been diagnosed with a prolapsed or ruptured disc, and you have exhausted all of your conservative treatment options without finding any lasting pain relief, you may be recommended for prolapsed disc surgery. Before you choose to undergo this type of procedure, you should research the surgical options available to you and pick the one that has the most potential benefits for your needs. For example, minimally invasive surgeries at Laser Spine Institute offer shorter recovery times^ compared to traditional open neck or back surgeries, so you may want to consider that type of procedure if you have an active lifestyle. Consult your doctor and Laser Spine Institute with any questions you may have as you research your prolapsed disc surgery options.

What is involved during prolapsed disc surgery?

The goal of prolapsed disc surgery is to remove spinal disc material that is pressing upon nerve tissue in the spinal column, and to stabilize the spine if necessary. In cases of a disc prolapse, one or more of the soft discs in the spinal column has weakened, causing the outer covering of the disc to break open. When this occurs, disc matter can become displaced and push into the spinal column where the spinal cord and its nerve roots are located. Excess pressure on these sensitive nerve pathways can heighten or interrupt nerve signals, leading to extreme pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.

Surgery to remove this pressure in the spinal column is often called spinal decompression surgery. Procedures such as spinal fusion, disc replacement or various forms of spinal decompression generally are considered elective, although progressive loss of nerve and muscle function can make it necessary in rare cases.

Types of prolapsed disc surgery available

Before a physician recommends surgery for a prolapsed disc, you will more than likely be directed to undergo nonsurgical treatments, including physical therapy, pain medications, exercise, rest or activity modification. If pain or other symptoms persist even after weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery might become an option. Before deciding to undergo surgery, you should research the potential risks and benefits of each of your surgical options. Compared to the minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute, traditional open back surgery for a prolapsed disc — which goes by other terms such as herniated disc, ruptured disc, torn disc or slipped disc — typically involves:

  • A long hospital stay
  • Increased risk of infection^
  • Longer recovery time^
  • Excessive scarring, which can lead to failed back surgery syndrome

As an alternative, surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use muscle-sparing techniques to perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that can help you find relief from your pain — without the long, painful recovery times^ associated with most traditional open spinal surgeries.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more and for a no-cost review* of your MRI or CT scan to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.