What is Diskectomy?
Diskectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the damaged portion of a herniated disk in your spine. A herniated disk can irritate or compress nearby nerves. Diskectomy is most effective for treating pain that radiates down your arms or legs.
The procedure is less helpful for treating actual back pain or neck pain. Most people who have back pain or neck pain find relief with more-conservative treatments, such as physical therapy.
Your doctor may suggest diskectomy if conservative, nonsurgical treatments haven’t worked or if your symptoms worsen. There are several ways to perform a diskectomy. Many surgeons now prefer minimally invasive diskectomy, which uses small incisions and a tiny video camera for viewing the procedure.
When is Diskectomy needed?
A diskectomy is performed to relieve the pressure a herniated disk (also called a slipped, ruptured or bulging disk or disk prolapse) places on a spinal nerve. A herniated disk occurs when some of the softer material inside the disk pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
Your doctor may recommend diskectomy if:
- You have trouble standing or walking because of nerve weakness
- Conservative treatment, such as physical therapy or steroid injections, fails to improve your symptoms after six to 12 weeks
- Pain radiating into your buttocks, legs, arms or chest becomes too much to manage
What should you know before undergoing Diskectomy?
A patient with clinical findings that do not correlate with the radiological findings is unlikely to benefit from surgery. Typically, this occurs with symptoms on the opposite side or at a different level from the disc.
Patients with mostly back pain are not good surgical candidates. The patients who benefit most from surgery are those who primarily have radicular pain (sciatica).
In general, patient should be given a trial of adequate conservative management (at least 6 weeks of physical therapy) before surgical intervention, since 90% sciatica cases improve with conservative treatment alone.
What are the complications and side effects?
Diskectomy is considered a safe procedure. But as with any surgery, diskectomy carries a risk of complications. Potential complications include:
- Leaking spinal fluid
- Injury to blood vessels or nerves in and around the spine
It is important you understand the precautions and know the possible complication and side effects before having this Diskectomy. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.
How do I prepare for Diskectomy?
You’ll likely need to avoid eating and drinking for a certain amount of time before surgery. If you take blood-thinning medications, you may need to adjust your dosing schedule before surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.
What happens during Diskectomy?
Surgeons usually perform diskectomy using general anesthesia, so you’re unconscious during the procedure. Small amounts of spinal bone and ligament may be removed to gain access to the herniated disk.
Ideally, just the fragment of disk that is pinching the nerve is removed, relieving the pressure but leaving most of the disk intact.
If the entire disk must be taken out, your surgeon may need to fill the space with a piece of bone — taken from a deceased donor or from your own pelvis — or a synthetic bone substitute. The adjoining vertebrae are then fused together with metal hardware.
What happens after Diskectomy?
After surgery, you’re moved to a recovery room where the health care team watches for complications from the surgery and anesthesia. You may be healthy enough to go home the same day you have surgery, although a short hospital stay may be necessary — particularly if you have any serious pre-existing medical conditions.
Depending on the amount of lifting, walking and sitting your job involves, you may be able to return to work in two to six weeks. If you have a job that includes heavy lifting or operating heavy machinery, your doctor may advise you to wait six to eight weeks before returning to work.
If you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your doctor or surgeon for more information.
What should you do after Diskectomy?
Before you go home, make sure to get instructions on how to keep the surgical incision clean. You’ll take antibiotics as a precaution against infection. The wound will be sore for several days, and fluid may seep from it.
If you notice any signs of infection in the incision, contact your surgeon and get immediate medical care. The “red flag” signs of infection are:
- A feeling of warmth around the incision
The period it takes for you to return to your normal activities, including work, ranges from two to six weeks. During this time, your surgeon will suggest you avoid lifting weight, bending, or sitting for prolonged periods of time. These activities put stress on the spine.
Exercise can help to prevent recurrences of low back pain and disk problems. If you’re overweight, losing weight may help, too. Consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting an exercise program for back pain.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
What to Expect from Diskectomy Surgery. https://www.healthline.com/health/diskectomy#slipped-disk. Accessed October 16, 2018.
Lumbar Discectomy. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1999923-overview. Accessed October 16, 2018.
Diskectomy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/diskectomy/about/pac-20393837. Accessed October 16, 2018.
Review Date: November 12, 2018 | Last Modified: November 12, 2018