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Herniated discs, often caused by injury or trauma to the spine, result in pain, numbness and weakness in the lower back and legs. When a disc “ruptures” or is pushed out of place, it can become lodged against spinal nerves, putting pressure on the nerves that run throughout the length of the spine and into the legs. This compression of the nerves can have a major impact on your quality of life.
A discectomy removes an injured or herniated disc from the spine. This is not generally the first line of treatment for spinal pain, but it is helpful in cases where the patient is suffering from constant and severe pain and numbness for a long time. The procedure, also called decompression, relieves the pressure put on adjacent nerves by removing portions of the bone or herniated discs pressing on the spine.
Before you undergo a microdiscectomy, your orthopaedic surgeon will order imaging tests, such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm the location and complexity of the compression and associated discs.
A microdiscectomy is performed using general anesthesia. A tiny incision is made over the location of the herniated disc. The orthopaedic surgeon uses a retractor to remove parts of the lamina bone so that there is a clear view of the spinal nerve and disc. The damaged disc is removed and is replaced with bone replacement material.
In most cases, patients will remain in the hospital no more than three days. While patients will at first have some discomfort and tenderness in the region, the pain from the herniated disk will be gone.
In some cases, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen the back and supporting muscles. You may have to limit certain physical activities for a couple of weeks, but most patients are fully recovered within two to eight weeks.
Laminectomy is another decompression surgery that is performed to help decrease pain for patients who suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition that impacts many older adults. The pain is caused by degenerative changes in the facet joints located in the lumbar region (lower) of the back. These facet joints become enlarged and put pressure on nerves.
Lumbar laminectomy is performed to remove the bone and bone spurs and repair ligaments that may be compressing the nerve. While the procedure can be done using traditional open surgery, more orthopaedic surgeons are opting for minimally invasive surgery. This method uses several tiny incisions to access the region. During the procedure, the surgeon removes a small part of the bone, called the lamina, just over the nerve root, and can also remove or trim disc material underneath the nerve root to allow for more space.
Learn What to Expect from Microdiscectomy & Laminectomy
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