Font Size
A
A
A

Percutaneous Discectomy for a Herniated Disc


Surgery Overview

Percutaneous means "through the skin" or using a very small cut. Discectomy is surgery to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord.

There are many different kinds of percutaneous discectomy procedures. All of them use small instruments that are inserted between the vertebrae and into the middle of the disc. Most of the time they are done in a surgery center using local or general anesthesia.

X-rays help guide the movement of the instruments during surgery. The surgeon can remove disc tissue by either:

  • Cutting it out.
  • Sucking out the center of the disc.
  • Using lasers to burn or destroy the disc.

What To Expect After Surgery

You can expect to go home on the same day you have the procedure.

You can use prescription medicine to control pain while you recover.

For several weeks after surgery, you'll need to avoid long periods of sitting and avoid bending, twisting, and lifting.

Why It Is Done

Percutaneous discectomy may be done if:

  • Your medical history, physical exam, and diagnostic tests (such as MRI, CT scan, or myelogram) show that the disc is bulging, and the material inside the disc hasn't ruptured into the spinal canal.
  • Pain and nerve damage have not improved after 4 or more weeks of nonsurgical treatment.
  • Your symptoms are very bad and get in the way of doing normal activities.
  • There are signs of serious nerve damage in your leg that may be getting worse. These signs include severe weakness, loss of coordination, or loss of feeling.
Click here to view a Decision Point.Herniated Disc: Should I Have Surgery?

It should not be done if you have:

  • Pieces of disc material in the spinal canal (as seen on a CT scan or MRI).
  • Narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis).

How Well It Works

No high-quality studies have shown that percutaneous discectomy improves low back pain. But one study showed that it does not work as well as standard discectomy surgery.1

Risks

During a percutaneous discectomy, the surgeon has no way of seeing the herniated disc or the compressed nerve root.

The surgery might not remove the herniated disc. So there is no guarantee that pressure on the nerve will improve.

There are risks with anesthesia.

What To Think About

Many experts consider percutaneous discectomy to be a poor alternative to standard discectomy or microdiscectomy procedures.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

References

Citations

  1. Deyo RA, Weinstein JN (2001). Low back pain. New England Journal of Medicine, 344(5): 363–370.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last RevisedMarch 1, 2011

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit Healthwise.org

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.





Medical Dictionary