When patients with disc herniations do not respond to rest, anti-inflammatory medications or epidural injections, a surgical procedure called a discectomy becomes an option.
The goal is to remove the part of the herniated disc that is pinching or putting pressure on the nerve roots and thereby to relieve the pain and numbness and permit recovery of any weakness that may have developed.
With traditional disc surgery, surgeons make an incision in the center of the back at the same level as the herniated disc and then strip the muscles of the back away from the bones of the spinal column in order to see the area where the disc has herniated. Once the herniated disc has been removed, the muscles are put back in place and the incision is closed. A new minimally-invasive technique called a microdiscectomy uses a special type of muscle-spreading instrument that reduces muscle damage. This allows herniated fragments to be removed safely while protecting the nerve roots and spinal cord. This procedure causes much less pain after the surgery, and allows the patient to recover and return to rehabilitation and normal activity much sooner.