A procedure aimed at removing — fully or partially — a herniated disc that causes pressure on the nerves in the lower back area. Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy is performed by means of making small incisions that do not damage surrounding muscles as much as an open surgery does. This leads to shorter surgery time, lower risk of infection, and easier overall recovery.
The literal meaning of the term “discectomy” is “to cut out the disk”, which does conclude the nature of the procedure pretty accurately. “Lumbar” means that it concerns the lower back area. Human spinal column, through which the spinal cord runs, is surrounded by vertebrae — small bones that are there to protect it. Between each of the vertebrae, a disc is situated to provide extra support for the bones, minimising traction and vibration. Overtime (or as a result of an injury) the outer parts of a disc may deteriorate, causing the it to bulge out — that’s what we call a herniated disc. Such bulge might, in turn, put pressure on the nerves within the spinal cord, which can lead to various degrees of pain and discomfort (more on it later). Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy is performed to release this pressure.
Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy — the procedure
The surgery itself is usually performed under local anaesthesia to prevent from any feeling of discomfort or pain. It is also possible, however, to receive general anaesthesia — personal preference of a patient and the scale of the procedure are both taken into consideration. Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy includes creating a small incision at the level of a degenerated disc — through that incision a wire is then inserted, followed by a plastic tube over it. The surgeon will then place subsequent, increasingly large tubes, until achieving a sufficient opening. Next, all the tubes are removed, except for the largest one — this is the space for the actual surgery to be performed. The surgeon will use the tube’s opening to insert tools and optical devices, and then proceed to removing the herniated parts of the disc. After that, all the devices are removed and the wound is closed.
Due to the minimal invasiveness of this method of lumbar discectomy, the recovery is rather short, with limited risk of post-surgical complications. In most cases, patients are released from the hospital on the day of the surgery, but a 1-2 observation is also possible. The recovery usually takes around 2 weeks. During that time the patient should avoid bending, lifting, as well as other strenuous activities. Of course, alcohol and other types of stimulants are strictly prohibited. You may experience some pain in the lower back area, as well fluid draining from the wound itself — those are normal signs of the healing process. It is crucial, however, to strictly adhere to your doctor’s instructions to avoid any complications — until the recovery is complete, or a scheduled follow-up appointment. Sometimes, a physical therapy is also advised to regain full mobility.
Who qualifies for lumbar discectomy?
What are the indications for a minimally invasive lumbar discectomy? Two most common causes of severe nerve compression include a herniated (bulging) disk or a degenerative disc disease. The symptoms may affect the lower back area, as well as legs and feet (one or both of them). Those include general weakness or numbness, shooting pain, loss of feeling in the genital area, and in some cases even bladder and bowel control difficulties. If long-lasting pain or discomfort is not relieved by means of physical therapy or exercise, diagnostic tests are recommended.
Risks of the procedure
As minimally invasive lumbar discectomy does not impose any extensive damage to the tissue, the risks are not by any means severe. However, it should be mentioned that every surgical procedure might cause general complications, including potential infection, inflammation, extensive bleeding, or even nerve damage. Some risks are also tied to the individual health condition of a patient — such should be consulted with your doctor.
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