Herniated disc surgery — factors to consider before consenting to an operation

If your physician has recommended you for elective herniated disc surgery, there are a number of factors you should consider before consenting. Maybe most importantly, you should make sure your condition was properly diagnosed and that surgery is both necessary and has a high chance of a good outcome. A second opinion should always be given by a primary care doctor or spine specialist. However, any general knowledge about herniated discs could help you make a more educated decision about whether or not herniated disc surgery is your best course of action.

What are herniated discs and what causes them?

A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of a spinal disc seeps through a rupture in the disc’s hard outer shell. This can happen from a traumatic injury like a car accident, but in most cases the primary cause is the natural aging process. As we get older, the parts of our spine deteriorate due to wear from normal activity ­­— like running in the park or doing housework. The spinal discs, which are so crucial in supporting the back and allowing for movement, can dry out and lose elasticity. Increased pressure from the vertebrae and a weakened exterior cause the tearing and leakage that are diagnosed as a herniated disc.

How is the condition treated and when does a herniated disc require surgery?

Common symptoms of herniated discs include local pain and inflammation, as well as pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness that radiates into the limbs. Most patients diagnosed with a herniated disc do not require surgery and will find needed relief from their symptoms through conservative, nonsurgical treatments as recommended by a doctor. Over-the-counter medications, physical therapy and lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are all common treatment options for herniated discs.

Surgery becomes an option when a full course of conservative treatment — usually lasting weeks or months — does not bring necessary relief for a high quality of life. You will usually then be referred to a surgeon who performs traditional open back procedures to treat herniated disc pain. This kind of spine surgery usually has a positive outcome for a patient, but also involves some significant downsides. To access the herniated disc, surgeons have to make large incisions that sever important muscles in the back. This results in blood loss, risk of infection, overnight hospitalization and a long, painful recovery period.

The minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ Our highly skilled surgeons use state-of-the-art techniques and equipment, requiring much smaller incisions to get to a herniated disc. If you have advanced disc deterioration requiring full disc removal and fusion, our minimally invasive stabilization procedures are a more precise answer to traditional open fusions.

To find out if you’re a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.

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