Discectomy (disc-eck-toe-me)

Illustration of a discectomy.

"Discectomy" means "remove the disc". A discectomy relieves the pressure on a nerve root by removing the herniated disc causing the pressure.

The discectomy procedure is performed through an incision down the center of the back over the area of the herniated disc. The muscles are moved to the side so that the surgeon can see the back of the vertebrae. X-rays may be required during surgery to make sure the correct vertebra is located. The surgeon cuts a small opening through the lamina (lam-in-ah) bone on the back of the spinal column. This procedure, called "laminotomy," is used to give the doctor room to see and work inside the spinal canal.

The nerve roots are moved out of the way. Upon locating the problem disc, the surgeon removes it, easing pressure and irritation on the nerves of the spine. Small instruments that fit inside the disc are used to remove as much of the nucleus as possible. This prevents the remaining disc material from herniating in the future.

After the discectomy, the muscles of the back are returned to their normal position around the spine. The skin incision is repaired with sutures or metal staples. In some cases, a discectomy may be combined with a spinal fusion, where the two vertebrae above and below the removed disc are joined together or fused.



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