A discectomy is a surgical procedure used to remove part of a herniated disc anywhere in the spine. This operation is typically used in cases where nerve compression exists or is suspected to exist. Disc removal surgery has been performed for decades and is now accomplished through a variety of specific procedures.
This article will take an objective look at the most common of all spinal surgeries. We will examine the goals of disc removal techniques and the results which can be expected after recovery from the operation.
What is a Discectomy?
Discectomy describes a type of spinal operation in which the herniated portion of the intervertebral structure is excised. Partial disc removal surgery is performed when a substantial section of the intervertebral disc has herniated out of position and is thought to be compressing a spinal nerve root or compressing the spinal cord.
Although these are common diagnoses, in actuality, they are often found to be incorrect. Even when there is substantiated compression, most pinched nerves and sciatica conditions will resolve without treatment.
Disc removal used to be far more common, but is still performed on many patients who have not been able to find relief from their chronic disc pain using more conservative modalities.
Types of Disc Surgery
The traditional approach to disc removal is a full open spinal surgery often integrating a full laminectomy, as well. This is a barbaric and completely antiquated surgical technique which is not advised. Fully open disc surgeries feature the most risks and also demonstrate the worst curative results. This procedure has shown poor statistics for permanently healing disc pain conditions, regardless of location or exact diagnosis.
Minimally invasive approaches are typically called microdiscectomy or microendoscopic disc removal techniques. These minimally invasive operations are less risky and do far less damage to healthy tissue. The recovery time is faster and the curative results are substantially better.
However, disc removal, in general, still does not offer a very good hope for truly ending pain, when viewed across a timeline of 7 years or more. The surgery can fail for a vast number of possible reasons, but it must be noted that even when all goes perfectly, there is still a high incidence of re-herniation of the operated disc, explaining why so few patients truly enjoy cures from the procedure.
The most common reason for any herniated disc surgery to fail is due to a misdiagnosis of the actual causation of the painful symptoms. As previously mentioned, herniated discs are the most common of all back pain scapegoats, so it is no surprise that disc-related surgery fails more often than other procedures, which might be better indicated for treating their respective conditions. Even the least invasive methods of disc removal damage healthy tissues and create structural changes in the spine which can not be undone.
In addition, every spinal surgery has the risk of causing permanent nerve damage, anesthetic-related complications or even death. Compared to these possible outcomes, the high incidence of failed herniated disc surgery syndrome seems kind.
As always, disc removal surgery should only be considered if and when all conservative measures have been attempted and only when the diagnosis is completely certain. If not, you are setting yourself up for inevitable failure and are likely to suffer from continuing pain postoperatively. Do not allow any doctor to pressure you or frighten you into spinal surgery. The poor results speak for themselves. Remember, if you learn the facts about herniated discs, you will be less inclined to even consider a surgical intervention as a possible cure.
For patients with verified disc pathologies, which are guaranteed to be the source of foraminal stenosis or central spinal stenosis, considering a less invasive approach, like IDET or nucleoplasty, may be a much better bet.