Sciatica - Is Discectomy Spine Surgery Right for My Sciatica?
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Is Discectomy Spine Surgery Right for My Sciatica?

A discectomy is an invasive surgical procedure that removes herniated disc material that is protruding into the spinal canal and pressing upon nerve tissue. This pressure can cause numbness, weakness, tingling, or mild to severe pain in the back and leg.

Discectomy surgery is a common treatment for herniated or ruptured discs of the lumbar spine and may be used for back pain sufferers who have not responded to traditional non-surgical treatments such as anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, traction, spinal decompression, and epidural steroid injections.

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 Herniated Discs

Here is a simplified explanation of what happens with a ruptured or herniated disc. The disc itself is kind of like a soft jelly-filled donut. The outer wall of the disc is called the annulus fibrosus and the inner part of the disc -- the jelly part -- is called the nucleus pulposus. When the outer part of the disc becomes weakened, it can tear and allow some of the inner nucleus pulposus to leak out. When this inner jelly presses on the surrounding nerve tissue it can weakness, tingling and pain in the back and legs.

What Happens In A Discectomy?

In a traditional discectomy -- often referred to as an open discectomy -- an incision is made in the patient's back over the herniated disc region. Muscle tissue around the herniated disc is removed and a retractor may be used to keep the muscle tissue and skin out of the way which gives the surgeon better access to the surgical area. In some cases, some of the vertebrae bone -- called the lamina -- may need to be removed to allow the surgeon better access to the disc. This procedure is called a laminectomy. Once the herniated disc fragments have been removed, the muscle tissue is put back and the surgical incision is closed with sutures.

Microdiscectomy Alternative

A newer, less invasive form of discectomy is also now available. This procedure is called a microdiscectomy and uses special magnifying and muscle-spreading instruments to allow the surgeon to view and operate on the herniated disc region. The surgeon can then perform the procedure through a smaller incision and cause less damage to the surrounding muscle and tissue.

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As a result, the patient can experience less pain and a quicker recovery. Not all patients are able undergo discectomies or microdiscectomies. A lot has to do with the particular nature of the patient's herniated disc.

Before being considered for either type of surgery, the doctor will typically have an imaging study performed such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a CT (computed tomography) scan in order to help diagnose the specific cause of the problem. Discectomy and microdiscectomy procedures are normally done in a hospital under general anesthesia. In some cases discectomy can be performed in an outpatient surgical center.

This article is not meant to replace the advice of your personal health care provider. Be sure to consult with your physician to explore all your back pain treatment options before taking any medical course of action.

About the Author:

For more information on discectomy alternatives see DRX9000 spinal decompression for sciatica at, a popular site with free info on the DRX9000 and other back pain treatments.
Mary J. Vega


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