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Herniated Disc Treatment: Percutaneous Discectomy

In our last few blog posts, we’ve discussed treatments for back pain, including pain caused by a herniated disc. As we noted, we generally like to begin conservatively by recommending tried-and-true home remedies such as rest, ice/heat and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for a herniated disc treatment.

When those treatments do not provide relief, we may then administer an epidural nerve block to deaden the irritated nerve endings that are caused by the bulging disc. If the patient still does not experience relief, we may recommend a minimally invasive procedure known as percutaneous discectomy.

Before we get into the specifics, let’s review what a herniated disc is. When the soft, rubbery discs that are located between the back’s vertebrae weaken or tear, the disc can begin to bulge and press on surrounding nerves. The result is pain, numbness or weakness. This common, but painful, condition often occurs when we hit middle age, although it can also be brought on by a trauma such as a fall or auto accident.

Percutaneous discectomy can relieve the pain associated with a herniated disc when other therapies have proven unsuccessful. It involves removing small portions of the bulging disc to relieve the pressure on nearby nerves. The procedure is done in our offices and is appropriate for patients whose herniations are too small to be addressed through traditional surgery.

Using x-ray guidance, we use a special needle to reach the disc and use a special probe with a rotating tip to remove tiny portions of the disc nucleus. Because the probe only removes the part of the disc that is irritating a nerve, it does not affect the disc’s ability to provide spinal stability.

There is no incision and the entire procedure generally takes less than an hour. Since no muscles or bones are cut, we can use local anesthesia. Patients do not face the risks or longer recovery times associated with general anesthesia. Recovery can be very quick, so quick that many of our patients are able to resume work and normal activities only three to five days after the procedure.

Best of all, studies have shown the percutaneous discectomy increases function and decreases pain in up to 90 percent of patients who have the procedure.

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