Broad disc protrusion refers to the percentage of the total disc circumference that is extending beyond its normal perimeter. While a focal disc protrusion involves less than 90 degrees of the total disc circumference, a broad disc protrusion involves 90 to 180 degrees of the total disc circumference.
The spine is a complex system of vertebrae, facet joints, muscles, ligaments and spinal discs. These discs absorb shock and allow for movement. However, as we age, the discs can degenerate. Spinal discs become thinner, drier, less elastic and more prone to damage. This is commonly referred to by doctors as degenerative disc disease. One resulting condition is disc protrusion, in which the spinal disc protrudes into the spinal canal.
What is the difference between a protruding disc and bulging disc?
While some doctors may use the terms disc protrusion and bulging disc interchangeably, others distinguish disc protrusions as a bulge or protrusion that involves less than half (180 degrees or less) of the oval-shaped disc’s circumference. A bulging disc, on the other hand, can involve more than 180 degrees of the disc’s circumference.
This means protruding discs may be viewed as potentially more serious than bulging discs because, with protrusion, more pressure is placed on a smaller area of the disc. This could extend the protrusion farther into the central spinal canal or a nerve root exit.
Diagnosing broad disc protrusion
You could have a protruding disc and not even realize it. Broad disc protrusion only produces symptoms like numbness, tingling and pain when the disc compresses a nerve root or the spinal cord. Some of the methods that doctors use to confirm a diagnosis of broad disc protrusion include:
- Medical history and physical. This involves an accurate description of the location and nature of symptoms to your physician. Your physician will want to know about how frequently the symptoms appear and when they started.
- Lasegue test. This test is a leg stretching and hip flexor assessment that could determine if you have a lumbar (lower) disc protrusion.
- MRI or CT scan. These are advanced medical imagery tests.
- Steroid injections. If anti-inflammatory injections are administered in specific locations to ease your pain, these can help your physician pinpoint what section of your spine may be experiencing disc protrusion.
Broad disc protrusion treatment
A course of conservative nonsurgical treatments is usually recommended first to manage the symptoms of a protruded disc. Examples of conservative treatment include physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, pain medication and massage. These nonsurgical techniques can be effective in relieving your pain and other symptoms.
However, if your symptoms do not respond to conservative measures, surgery can become an option. If you are recommended for traditional open spine surgery, but have concerns about the risks and difficulties involved, reach out to USA Spine Care. We are the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery to treat degenerative spine conditions and have helped more than 75,000 patients since 2005. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures are an alternative to traditional open spine surgery and are performed on an outpatient basis. Our surgery offers a shorter recovery and less risk of complication compared to traditional procedures.^
Contact us for your no-cost MRI review* to learn if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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