Intervertebral Discectomy

Intervertebral discs are located between each backbone (vertebra). When damaged, these discs can put pressure on nerves as they leave the spinal cord. An intervertebral discectomy is a back surgery that removes all or part of these discs. The procedure is most often done on lumbar discs (located in the lower back). It may also be done on cervical discs in the neck. There are two methods for this surgery:

  • Call Your Doctor

    After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
    • Numbness or tingling
    • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
    • Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination, or bleeding in the urine
    • Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control

    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

  • Definition

    Intervertebral discs are located between each backbone (vertebra).
    When damaged, these discs can put pressure on nerves as they leave the spinal cord. An
    intervertebral discectomy
    is a back surgery that removes all or part of these discs. The procedure is most often done on lumbar discs (located in the lower back). It may also be done on cervical discs in the neck. There are two methods for this surgery:

    • Open procedure—A large incision is made.
    • Microdiscectomy—Small incisions are made, and the doctor inserts tiny instruments through these incisions.

  • What to Expect

  • Reasons for Procedure


    These discs normally serve as cushions between the bones. The discs can become damaged or dry with age. Injury can also cause a disc to bulge (or
    herniate
    ). These changes can create pressure on nerves leaving the spine. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness.

    Laparoscopic discectomy
    laparoscopic discectomy small
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    The best time to have this surgery is debatable. This is because—for some patients—having early surgery may not result in less pain or disability. In most cases, surgery is only done after other treatments have failed. Other treatments typically include:

    • Rest
    • Physical therapy
    • Medicines

    The goal of surgery is to eliminate pain, weakness, and numbness caused by the disc pressing on a nerve. You may feel relief right away, or it may take months for the nerve root to heal. In some cases, your symptoms may not improve. Your doctor will carefully evaluate you before surgery to determine what the best option is.

  • Possible Complications

    Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have intervertebral discectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

    • Bleeding
    • Infection
    • Nerve damage
    • Bladder or bowel incontinence
    • Leakage of spinal fluid
    • Another herniated disc (may happen within the first three months after surgery)

    Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:

    • Smoking
    • Drinking
    • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
    • Prior spine surgeries