A discectomy is the surgical removal of all or a portion of one of your spinal discs. The discs are the structures located between the spinal vertebral bodies. A fibrous ligament called the annulus surrounds the disc itself. Most commonly, a disc is removed if it has herniated or ruptured through the annulus and is pinching on your nerves. This can cause pain or other problems. Sometimes, a severely bulging disc will also pinch upon a nerve and need to be removed. Occasionally, severely degenerated discs will cause pain and also need removal.

Herniated discs can cause many of the same symptoms as spinal stenosis. Herniated discs in your neck can cause arm pain, weakness, and numbness—and possible spinal cord injury. Herniated discs in your low back can cause leg pain, weakness, and numbness.

Herniated discs can sometimes be treated in a non-surgical fashion with medications, physical therapy, and occasionally cortisone injections. In certain patients, this may result in relief from the pain caused by the disc rupture. Frequently, however, surgery is necessary to relieve the pinched nerve and the associated symptoms.

The surgeons in the Department of Neurological Surgery perform hundreds of disc operations each year. We commonly perform these operations in a minimally invasive fashion using modern surgical microscopes and microsurgical techniques. Our patients are often operated upon as outpatients, while some patients may require a brief stay in the hospital. Most patients are dramatically improved by their surgical treatment and are able to resume active, productive lives.


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