Discectomy is a term used to refer to a surgery that is performed to remove a lumbar herniated disc material that could be pressing on the spinal cord or a nerve root. The procedure is performed, generally as microdiscectomy, in which a special microscope is used to view the nerves and the discs. This larger view of the discs and nerves allows the surgeon to use a smaller incision, thereby causing less damage to the tissue surrounding the surgery site.
Before the removal of the disc, a small piece of bone (lamina) may also be removed from the affected vertebra to allow the surgeon to get a better view of the herniated disc.
After the surgery, the patient is encouraged to get moving and walk as soon as the numbness passes.
Why is it done?
This surgery may be considered if the patient exhibits some of the following symptoms:
- Bad leg pain, weakness, or numbness that hinders the patient’s daily activities
- There is no improvement in the leg symptoms after at least 4 weeks of treatment (nonsurgical)
- Physical exam shows that improvement is likely after surgery
This surgery is considered as an emergency in case of cauda equina syndrome, the signs of which include:
- New loss of bowel control
- New loss of bladder control
- New numbness or tingling in the buttocks, genital area, or legs
- New weakness in the legs
- Surgery does not necessarily result in expected improvements
- Risk of damage to the spine or nerves
- Risk of infection
- Anesthesia risks
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