What is a Discectomy?
A discectomy is performed when a disc in the spine, which separates the vertebrae becomes damaged or inflamed and requires removal. This procedure is frequently used to treat a herniated disc. The discs in the spine between vertebrae are composed of a tougher exterior and a jelly-like center to prevent the bones from rubbing. A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of the disc begins to expand, pushing through the tougher exterior and placing pressure on the nerve roots.
Your surgeon will make an incision above the damaged area of the spine to access the herniated disc. Muscles in the neck or back will need to be moved to allow access to the spine. This process typically extends recovery time as the muscles will need to heal once put back into place following surgery. With the use of a guiding needle, surgical instruments are used to cut away the protruding portions of the disc.
Typically a discectomy is performed due to more severe damage to the disc. The disc may be completely removed and replaced with a bone graft, or transplanted bone tissue, in a procedure called cervical fusion. Your surgeon will use metal hardware such as plates and rods to hold the bone graft in place and allow the newly formed vertebrae to naturally grow together and heal.
Depending on the extent of damage to the disc, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy and the use of a back brace as the newly formed vertebrae heals. Typically, pressure on the nerve root will be relieved immediately following surgery and a majority of patients will make a full recovery allowing a return to normal activities pain-free.