Disc protrusion surgery can be used to address a damaged disc that protrudes outside of the normal boundaries of the spine. These discs serve as cushions for the parts of the spine, absorbing the impact from motions like walking, bending and turning, and they can become worn down in many ways, typically through the normal aging process.
As the body gets older, the water content of the discs can decrease, causing discs to become flatter. The elasticity of the cartilage in the tough outer layer of the discs can also become reduced, leaving them less able to return to their original position following the exertion of pressure. These issues can weaken the outer wall of a disc, allowing the gel-like center to push out against the disc wall and cause the disc to bulge beyond its normal position (referred to as a bulging disc).
The wall of a disc also can develop a tear (a herniated disc) and potentially even allow the inner core material to leak out of the disc entirely. A torn disc may or may not be painful in and of itself, but any misshapen disc has the potential to cause symptoms if the bulging or herniated portion of the disc compresses nearby nerve roots or the spinal cord. When that occurs, the person may feel pain, weakness, numbness and tingling that radiates along the effective nerves.
For example, a pinched nerve in the neck might cause numbness in a shoulder or hand, while one in the lower back could lead to pain in the buttocks, legs and feet. To address the problematic symptoms, doctors may recommend that their patients begin a regimen of conservative treatments. Such approaches can include physical therapy, low-impact exercise, hot and cold compresses, gentle stretches and over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Open spine disc protrusion surgery
For patients who are unable to find relief from their symptoms through several weeks or months of conservative treatments, it may be helpful to consider having disc extrusion surgery to ease their pain and discomfort. Traditional neck and back surgeries are highly invasive and require a 6- to 8-inch incision along the spine so surgeons can access the affected areas. These incisions can be extensive and because muscles must often be cut in order to access the spine, healing can be a lengthy and difficult process.
Some of the procedures that are most frequently performed on patients who have disc extrusion issues include:
- Discectomy. This procedure removes the entire damaged disc to relieve the pressure it places on surrounding nerve roots. Afterward, the spine is fused using bone grafts, screws, rods and other implants.
- Laminectomy. This procedure removes the roof of a vertebra to access the spinal cord and decompress the pinched nerves. It is often used to treat spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal canal caused by bulging discs, bone spurs and other abnormal spinal components.
- Implantation of artificial discs. This procedure replaces a damaged disc with an artificial one to reestablish proper spine height and flexibility.
- Fusion surgeries. This procedure stabilizes the spine by grafting two adjacent vertebrae together after removing a large portion of the bone, disc, ligaments, cartilage or tendons between them.
Minimally invasive disc protrusion surgery options at USA Spine Care
Some patients decide that traditional spine surgeries may not be their best options, so they look into other alternatives. This may include seeing if they are a candidate for the minimally invasive procedures offered by USA Spine Care. Our surgeries fall into two major categories — minimally invasive decompression procedures and minimally invasive stabilization procedures.
Minimally invasive decompression surgeries are utilized for patients who need help relieving pressure from nerve roots or the spinal cord. Our experienced surgeons perform the following minimally invasive decompression procedures:
- Laminotomy. Similar to a traditional laminectomy, this procedure involves the removal of only a portion of the lamina to relieve pressure on the spinal cord compressed by spinal stenosis.
- Foraminotomy. This procedure involves cleaning out the openings of the spine to relieve the pressure on the nerve roots as it exits the foraminal canal.
- Discectomy. This procedure removes just a portion of a disc that is bulging or herniated and compressing the spinal cord. A minimally invasive discectomy has the same aim as a traditional discectomy but uses much less invasive methods.
- Facet thermal ablation. This procedure is performed most often in conjunction with a decompression procedure and involves obliterating the nerve within a facet joint to relieve pain.
For more severe or advanced spinal conditions, our minimally invasive stabilization (MIS) procedures may be an appropriate option. USA Spine Care surgeons can complete the following MIS procedures:
- Posterior cervical fusion. Our board-certified surgeons+ fuse together two or more vertebrae in the upper (cervical) portion of the spine using a small incision on the back of the neck. This procedure is primarily used to treat spinal instability or deformity, severe disc herniation or myelopathy.
- Anterior cervical discectomy fusion (ACDF). Using a small incision in the front of the neck, our surgeons can remove a damaged disc and fill the disc space using a bone graft to stabilize the spine. This is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck fusion^ and its focus is to relieve the symptoms associated with a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease.
- Cervical disc replacement. For some patients having a discectomy, replacing an unhealthy vertebral disc with an artificial one may be a viable option to better stabilize the spine.
- Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF). This muscle-sparing procedure is used to address a variety of lower back problems by accessing the spine through small incisions on the side of the body. From there, our surgeons can remove portions of damaged discs and restore proper disc height using a spacer and a bone graft that will eventually fuse the adjacent vertebrae together.
- Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF). To address certain lumbar spine conditions, our surgeons take a unilateral approach, accessing the spine through one small incision on the side of the back without the need for retracting nerve roots as much as a PLIF (posterior lumbar interbody fusion) procedure requires. This procedure removes the damaged disc and inserts implants to help stabilize the spine.
- SI joint fusion. This procedure joins the sacrum and the pelvis through the use of a small incision that is guided by a fluoroscope. Since the mobility is typically limited in the SI joint without the procedure, patients often will not lose any range of motion.
- Decompression with Interlaminar Stabilization® device. Used to address spinal stenosis, this procedure involves relieving the pain associated with spinal stenosis by decompressing a pinched nerve. The surgeon will then insert a device to restabilize the spine and perhaps prevent future nerve compression in the area without limiting the patient’s range of motion.
Since 2005, the minimally invasive procedures performed at USA Spine Care have helped more than 75,000 patients find lasting relief from their chronic conditions. If you’d like to learn more about the minimally invasive disc protrusion surgery that USA Spine Care performs, contact us today. You can also receive a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for our procedures.
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