What to Expect from MinimallyInvasive Surgery for a Herniated Disc
For many people, minimally invasive surgery for aherniated disc represents their best chance for lastingpain relief without undergoing a highly invasive openspine operation. In recent years, with the rapidadvancement of endoscopic technology, lasers, and othermedical technology, these types of procedures havebecome more ubiquitous. Now, a procedure that mighthave previously required months of rehabilitation can bedone on an outpatient procedure. However, with all ofthat said, it is important to understand that any type ofsurgical procedure should still be considered thetreatment of last resort and is only recommended whenall other nonsurgical techniques are exhausted.
A Brief Overview of the Spinal AnatomyThe spinal column in the back and neck is responsible forfacilitating the full range of motion that we often take forgranted during the course of the day. Each vertebra in thespinal column is separated by intervertebral discs, connectedby vertebral facet joints, and supported by various musclesgroups, ligaments, and tendons.The problem with the spinal anatomy is that it is susceptibleto deteriorating as an individual ages. This is why most peopleassociate minor aches and pains and a discernible loss offlexibility with the natural aging process. However,occasionally this normal deterioration can turn into adegenerative spine condition, which may warrant treatmentin order to alleviate the patient’s discomfort.
What is a Herniated Disc?The intervertebral discs in the spine are tasked withhelping adjacent vertebrae articulate against one anothercomfortably. These discs are made of a tough outer shell(annulus fibrosus) and gel-like nuclear material (nucleuspulposus). A herniated disc refers to a condition where atear or rupture in the annulus fibrosus allows the nucleuspulposus to seep out of the disc and enter the spinalcolumn. This condition isn’t necessarily symptomatic, butif the herniated disc material comes in contact with anerve root or the spinal cord, a number of symptoms,such as chronic pain or diminished reflexes, can develop.
Conservative TreatmentMore often than not, the chronicpain that may accompany adegenerated disc can usually bemanaged with a carefully plannedregimen of conservative, nonsurgicaltreatment, rather than a minimallyinvasive surgery for a herniated disc.Specific treatment options tend tovary from patient to patientdepending on their specificdiagnosis, but more often than not,some combination of nonsteroidalanti-inflammatories, low-impactexercises, hydrotherapy, heattherapy and cold therapy cannormally provide the pain relief thepatient requires over the course ofseveral weeks or months.
Further TreatmentIf, however, nonsurgical treatment fails to offer the lasting pain relief that the patientrequires, they may consider minimally invasive surgery for a herniated disc. Unliketraditional open spine surgeries, these procedures are usually done on an outpatientbasis and require very little post-operative rehabilitation in order to get back to fullstrength.Yet, perhaps the biggest differentiator between these types of procedures and majorspine surgery is the minimal amount of trauma they cause the body. Historically, when aspine surgeon needed access to a deteriorated intervertebral disc, they’d have to dissectmuscles, tendons, and other soft tissue to get in position. A large percentage of therecovery process from this surgery was then recuperating from this incision.A minimally invasive procedure, on the other hand, requires a very small incision and softtissue is gently pushed aside – rather than cut – and all of the surgical tools necessary areinserted through a small tube. The collateral damage to the body is significantly reduced,which also limits the risk of scar tissue, hemorrhaging, infection, and other issues.To learn more about this state-of-the-art approach to spine surgery, speak with yourdoctor. Not everyone is a candidate for an endoscopic procedure – certain individualsmay require a spinal fusion surgery instead – but for a select segment of the population,they can be an exciting new option.