What is Herniated Disc Surgery?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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Herniated discs involve the cushioning between the vertebrae. The discs are cushiony tissue that allow a person to flex and move his spine. Sometimes a disc either bulges or ruptures, applying pressure to nerves in this area or to the spinal cord. When this happens, the person is said to have a herniated disc.

It is important to understand that a person can have a herniated disc without experiencing pain. In fact, many people only discover one after having an unrelated x-ray or other type of diagnostic procedure. However, others experience such symptoms as pain, numbness or weakness in an extremity, and even bowel control problems.

Herniated disc surgery is an invasive type of treatment used for those who have herniated discs in their backs. However, surgery is usually reserved for the most serious cases. For example, a person with pain that has persisted after four to six weeks of treatment using other methods may be a good candidate for herniated disc surgery. This may be particularly true when weakness accompanies pain symptoms or when the person finds it difficult to keep up with everyday activities. In other cases, a doctor may alert the patient to the fact that disc surgery is an option after viewing the results of diagnostic tests, such as an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test.


There are different types of herniated disc surgery. When a person has a discectomy, his doctor makes a small incision and removes disc tissue that is applying pressure to a nerve or the spinal cord. Some experts consider this the most successful of all the herniated disc surgeries. It is also considered the most common.

Another type of herniated disc surgery is called a percutaneous discectomy. This surgical procedure is used to treat people who have bulging or ruptured discs. To remove herniated disc tissue using this method, a surgeon makes a small incision in the patient's back and uses a special tool for removal. Unfortunately, this is considered one of the least successful methods of treating herniated discs.

A laminotomy is another operation that can be used to treat herniated discs. For this surgery, a doctor removes part of the lamina, a thin covering that helps to protect the spinal cord. Alternatively, a patient may have a laminectomy, which involves taking not just a portion of the lamina, but removing all of it from particular vertebrae. Sometimes one of these surgeries is done along with a discectomy.



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