If you are suffering from a herniated disc, you may know how painful and debilitating this condition can be. Not only can it compress and irritate your spinal nerves, but it can also hinder your mobility and cause severe, radiating pain down your arms and legs. While conservative treatments can help relieve symptoms of herniated discs, in some cases, a discectomy may be necessary.
What is a Discectomy?
A discectomy, also known as disc removal surgery, is a surgical procedure that removes a portion of or an entire intervertebral disc. This procedure is performed to relieve compression and irritation from your spinal nerves due to a herniated disc.
During a discectomy procedure, you will be placed under general anesthesia, meaning that you will be asleep for the entirety of the surgery. Your surgeon at Alliance Orthopedics will then remove small portions of bone and ligament to gain access to your herniated or slipped disc.
In some cases, only a fragment of the disc will need to be removed, but in others, the entire disc will need to be taken out. If the whole disc is taken out, your surgeons may use a piece of bone from a donor, from your pelvis, or a synthetic substitute to fill the empty space where the disc was before fusing the adjoining vertebrae together.
Do I Need a Discectomy?
In general, a discectomy is only required once conservative treatments, like pain medications, steroid injections, or physical therapy, have failed to relieve your pain. While you should always consult with your Alliance Orthopedics specialists, some indicators that you may need a discectomy include:
Difficulty standing or walking
Loss of bladder or bowel control
Excruciating pain that radiates into your buttocks, legs, arms, or chest
How to Prepare
Since a discectomy requires the use of general anesthesia, you will need to refrain from eating or drinking at least eight hours before surgery. In addition, if you are on any blood-thinning medications, they should not be taken at least three days prior to your procedure. Remember, you should always follow any instructions provided by your doctor before and after the discectomy to avoid any complications.
Although recovery varies from person to person, most patients recover from a discectomy in four to six weeks. Your team at Alliance Orthopedics will consult with you on your exact recovery plan, depending on your lifestyle, occupation, and activity levels. Typically, your recovery will entail: