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Sciatica is a medical condition that leads to pain, numbness, and weakness in the leg as the result of damage to the sciatic nerve. This condition may develop as the result of an injury or due to natural disease processes. Lifestyle modification and the use of prescription medications can sometimes alleviate these symptoms, although surgical intervention is often necessary. Surgical procedures that may be used to treat sciatica are known as discectomy, microdiscectomy, laminectomy, or laminotomy. The type of sciatica surgery that is performed depends on the reason for the sciatica and the extent of the nerve damage.
A discectomy is one type of sciatica surgery. This procedure may become necessary if a damaged disc of the spine is pressing against the sciatic nerve, causing the nerve to become compressed or pinched. A discectomy involves removing the damaged disc, or at least a portion of the disc, so that the pressure against the sciatic nerve is relieved. A microdiscectomy is a similar form of sciatica surgery, with the primary difference being that smaller incisions are made, smaller surgical instruments are used, and recovery time is typically shorter. There is also a lesser chance of developing an infection when a microdiscectomy is performed.
Another type of sciatica surgery is called a laminectomy. This procedure involves the complete removal of the lamina, a flat part of the vertebrae of the spine. The lamina is responsible for protecting the spinal cord as well as the spinal canal. A laminotomy is a type of sciatica surgery in which only a portion of the lamina is removed. Both procedures are performed in order to make more space for the sciatic nerve, reducing the chances of compression and pain.
Any type of sciatica surgery involves a lengthy recovery process. The patient is generally encouraged to get out of bed and move around some within 24 hours following the surgery, but pain medications may be needed for several days to several weeks. Physical activity will need to be restricted for a few weeks until sufficient healing has taken place. The patient will be closely monitored by the medical team and will be given a specific set of instructions regarding the proper way to sit and stand so that additional damage to the nerve and surrounding tissues does not occur. Any questions or concerns, including the development of increased pain, fever, or possible signs of infection should be directed to a doctor right away.