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Discectomy: Procedure, Recovery, Cost, Risk & Complication

Discectomy refers to a surgical procedure that involves the removal of a damaged part of a herniated disk (also known as ruptured, slipped, bulging disk or disk prolapse) in the spine. A herniated disk is a condition where a portion of the soft material present in the disk pushes out from a crack in the tough exterior. The herniated disk may cause irritation or compression of the nerves located nearby, resulting in numbness, weakness and pain. These symptoms may affect the neck or the back and even radiate down to the arms and legs.

A doctor generally suggests discectomy to a patient if the symptoms have gradually worsened or the non-surgical treatments have not been effective. Though there are several ways for performing a discectomy, surgeons prefer minimally invasive discectomy, where small incisions are made and a small video camera is used for viewing purpose.


A patient may be recommended to undergo discectomy in the following circumstances:

  • If one has trouble in standing or walking due to a nerve weakness
  • When other conservative treatments such as physical therapy or medication does not bring any improvement in your condition
  • A disk fragment is lodged in the spinal canal, pressing on to a particular nerve
  • Extensive pain in the legs, arms, buttocks or chest that becomes difficult to tolerate

Pre Procedure

It is important to follow the following pre-procedure instructions before undergoing a discectomy:

  • There may be a few tests like an x-ray or EKG that you need to undergo before the surgery
  • Stop smoking a few days before the surgery. Non-smokers are found to have lesser bleeding problems compared to smokers during a surgery
  • Inform your doctor about the medications, supplements and vitamins that you take. You may have to stop taking medicines like aspirin, blood thinners and anti-inflammatory medicines for a few days before the surgery.
  • You may have to stop drinking and eating anything for a few hours prior to the surgery. Your doctor will provide you with proper instructions. Ensure that you follow them correctly. If you have to take any medicine during that time, take it with very sips of water.

During Procedure

The surgery is performed by administering the patient with general anaesthesia. It can be done by one of the following methods or a combination of both:

  • Sacral: The physician inserts an endoscopic fiber-optic scope through the help of a tiny incision into the sacrum, which is a natural opening at the base of your spine. With the help of direct visualization, the doctor examines the insides of the spinal canal and disc for identifying any ruptures, tears, bulges or other abnormalities. The damaged disc is then shrinked with the help of laser.
  • Posterior lateral: The surgeon inserts a hollow needle through the back side of the lateral spine, directly into your disc tissue. A laser is then passed from into the disc through the needle for shrinking the bulging or herniated disc. Fluoroscopy is used for watching and guiding the progress of the whole procedure.

Post Procedure

After the surgery has been successfully completed, you will be shifted to a general bed where the doctors will monitor you and look for any complications related to the surgery or anaesthesia. You can go home the same day, or you may to stay in the hospital for a few days if you had a pre-existing health condition.

You can get back to work in 4-6 weeks after the surgery. In case your profession involves lifting heavy objects or operating heavy machinery, you may have to wait for 8 weeks before you resume working. Limit activities that involve bending, lifting or stooping for 3-4 weeks after the surgery. Also, avoid sitting down for long hours during this time.

Ensure to take your medications in time. A physical therapist will be able to teach you exercise for improving the flexibility and strength of your muscles around the spine.

Risk & Complication

Discectomy is generally considered to be a safe procedure. However, as with every surgery, there may be some risks that are associated with it. These complications also depend on your age, your general health condition, and how your body reacts to the surgery and the medications. Some of the complications that may occur are:

  • Bleeding from the incision site
  • Infection at the incision site
  • Leaking of the spinal fluid
  • Build-up of fluid in the lungs, leading to pneumonia
  • Injury to the nerves or blood vessels in and around the spine while performing the surgery
  • Injury in the protective layer that surrounds the spine
  • Persistent pain even after the surgery

More Info

A discectomy reduces the symptoms of a herniated disc, but it does not cure the reason why the disc was actually herniated. To avoid injuring your spine once again, your doctor may recommend losing weight, go for low-impact exercises, and limit activities that involve repetitive or extensive twisting, bending or lifting. You can assume your normal diet, from the time you get back home. Fruits, vegetables and extra fluids must be added to avoid constipation.

Attending follow-up session with your doctor is important after undergoing a discectomy. You may also have to undergo an x-ray so that your doctor can analyse your progress.

The cost of discectomy would be approximately Rs. 2,25,000 – Rs. 2,75,000.

Popular Health Tips

How Effective Are Pain Killers And Surgery for Back Pain?

Dr. Vishwas Virmani 90% (18149 ratings)
Physiotherapist, Noida
How Effective Are Pain Killers And Surgery for Back Pain?
PAIN KILLERS / ANALGESIA Painkillers-or analgesics-are drugs that work by interfering with the pain transmission process. Although the stronger analgesics are only available by prescription from your doctor, many of the pain killers that you can obtain over-the-counter from your pharmacist can be effective if taken properly. Remember to always ask your pharmacist for advice and never exceed the stated dose. BACK SURGERY Surgery is only appropriate for a very small proportion of patients with back pain. Rarely, back pain may worsen to the extent that other functions or organs of the body (e.g. the bladder or the bowel) are affected. In the most severe cases, some patients may become paralyzed. Your doctor will use surgery as a last resort, when all other attempts at relieving your pain have failed. If you have been referred for back surgery, you should carefully consider your options before consenting. As well as requiring many weeks of convalescence,success is never guaranteed and even after surgery the pain may not go away completely. It is important that you discuss the surgery and all the possible outcomes with your surgeon. Useful questions to ask your back pain specialist include: What kind of operation are you proposing? What are the chances of good pain relief if i opt to have the surgery? What will happen if i decide not to have the surgery? What are my other options besides surgery? What are the possible risks associated with this kind of surgery? How long will i be in hospital for? Will i have to undergo physiotherapy after the operation? How long will i have to stay off work? How long after the surgery will my life return to normal? There areTWO general types of back surgery: Discectomy- involves the removal of part of a vertebral disc to reduce pressure on a nerve root. Stabilization/fusion- involves fixing together two or more adjacent vertebrae with bone taken from elsewhere in the body.

Slipped Disc Problem - Why You Get It?

Dr. Gaurav Sharma 86% (30 ratings)
MD, FIPM, CCEPC, Fellowship in Pain Management
Pain Management Specialist, Jaipur
Slipped Disc Problem - Why You Get It?
Are you prone to slipped disc problem? + the ideal way to treat it A slipped disc, also known as a prolapsed disc or herniated disc, is the term given to the phenomenon that occurs when a cartilaginous disc found between the vertebrae in the spine becomes slightly displaced or protrudes, thereby pressing on the nerves in the adjacent areas and causing back pain. This happens when the soft inner part of the disc, known as nucleus pulposus, bulges out through a weakness in the exterior part of the disc. A prolapsed disc usually occurs in the lower region of the spine and can be of varying sizes. There might even be the development of inflammation around the disc in some cases. Who is likely to get affected? Most cases of herniated disc occur in patients between the ages of 30 and 50. The number of men affected is twice as many as the number of women. Although the root cause of this problem is not yet known, there are a number of factors that may trigger it. These factors include working at a job that requires a lot of lifting, an occupation that involves remaining in a seated position for a long time, weight-bearing sports, obesity, smoking habits and increasing age. Effective ways of treating the problem The different methods that are commonly used to treat the problem are: Medications - There are many different kinds of medicines that are effective in providing relief. These include painkillers, muscles relaxants, anti-inflammatory pills, etc. Spinal injections - A number of spinal injections are used to treat slipped discs. The injection is done at the opening where the inflamed nerve roots are found and reduces pain, swelling and irritation in the area. Radiofrequency ablation - This procedure makes use of an electrical current produced by radio waves to reduced pain and sensitivity in the affected area. Ozone discectomy - As opposed to the surgical removal of the prolapsed disc, this new process makes use of an ozone-oxygen mixture that is injected into the spine to treat the problem. Many international studies have proved its superiority to traditional methods and surgeries. Those affected by this problem are advised to keep exercising and continuing with their everyday activities as best as possible.
4286 people found this helpful

Endoscopic Discectomy - Pin Hole Stitchless Techniques

Dr. Sanjay Sharma 89% (288 ratings)
Fellowship in Interventional Pain management , Diploma in Anesthesia, DA, MBBS
Pain Management Specialist, Jaipur
Endoscopic Discectomy - Pin Hole Stitchless Techniques
What's pivd? Also called as slipdisc pain or sciatica may affect your lumbar or cervical or throracic spine. But most common is l4 5and l5-s1 level or c5-6 level. Most of painful condition of pertaining to your spine due to bulge, prolapse (protrusion), extrusion, sequestration. In with all condition nucleus pulposus come out from it originally site. Causing pressure over traversing or exiting nerve roots. Most of time patient getting treatment for of slipdisc or sciatica etc without any radiological evidence. What causes pivd? *unwanted prolonged exposure to sitting posture *acute forward flexion *unwanted weight lifting *trauma or accident *overweight body *undesirable exercise *keep on exercise for chronic pain condition What is symptoms? Paresthesia, numbness, tingling sensation, burning sensation, spasms in thigh's and calf muscles, radiating pain upto knee or foot. Unable to sitting or standing for long hours, bowl or bladder incontinence, motor power affected What are basic investigation? X-rays only show alignment and fracture and displacement of vertebrae, Mri scan shows all soft and hard structure of spine-all disc, nerve, ligaments, joint, vessel and muscles etc can be seen in perfect way Emg, ncv, neurometry etc Treatment options? There's two types of options for your spine pain, one is conservative treatment with bed rest, exercises and medicine. But upto certain duration 6week to 6month you can try with. If no red flag sign like loss of motor power. Or bowl bladder involvement should take opinion from surgeon. Second way is surgical procedure-like conventional open surgery or endoscopic minimal invasive techniques choice of your surgeon. As common man had reservation about spine surgery as thoughts to be risky, chance of bowl and bladder incontinence, or power loss of limbs, because in conventional surgery a small percentage of cases use to face failed back surgery syndrome. Where such complaint were invitable. Big skin incision. Long bed rest. Long hospital stays. Even with expert surgeon these complications were enviably there. Secondly there is minimal invasive like pin hole stitchless techniques are now choice for spine disc pain problem. Day care surgery with out any blood loss. 24hrs hospital stay, no incision like conventional surgery. Done under local anaesthesia and sedation. Patient can resume daily activities same day. Can go to work with safety measures after 2weeks. And safety precautions to be followed for strengthening your back spine. Now like day care surgery endoscopic discectomy for slipdisc pain can be managed in our hands. All surgery can be seen even by patients on screen, what exactly happened to your spine and disc material. Post procedure- follow up- Regular physiotherapy and rehabilitation services is mandatory for strengthening of your spine. Prognosis-success of procedure is 95%with all precautions and safety measures.

Back Pain - How Ayurveda Can Help You Treat It?

Dr. Arti Bakori 90% (170 ratings)
PGDHM, Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery (BAMS)
Ayurveda, Jamnagar
Back Pain - How Ayurveda Can Help You Treat It?
A painful, common condition that affects the lower part of the spine is termed as back pain. It is mostly caused by strain (muscle injury) or sprain (ligament injury). Some other causes include poor posture, improper lifting, fracture, infrequent exercise, arthritis or a ruptured disk. Usually, pain in the lower back is the only symptom. Conventional treatment for back pain often includes Traction Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs Weight control If these treatments fail, then the only option left is surgery. Either discectomy (surgical procedure to relieve pressure in the disc by removing the gel-like substance in the disc) or foraminotomy (surgical procedure to expand the gaps through which the nerves pass) is performed. However, conventional therapy usually has side-effects and only manages to suppress the problem, not cure it. If you seek a cure, Ayurveda is an excellent option. Usually, Ayurvedic remedies are non-invasive, natural and can be arranged at home. Here are some great Ayurvedic treatments: According to the principles of Ayurveda, imbalance in the doshas can lead to problems in the body. The goal of Ayurveda is to balance the doshas and heal the body from the inside. So a lot of Ayurvedic treatments comprise of foods that need to be consumed for the body to heal. For example, you can blend wheat, coriander powder, khuskhus powder and milk together, boil it for twenty minutes and then consume it at room temperature. This will relieve your pain. Another thing you can do is fry garlic in coconut oil and then use the oil to massage over the affected areas on your back. To restore the damaged dosha, daily purgation is suggested. Practicing Yoga can go a long way in managing your pain as well. In Ayurveda, pain is seen as a result of exerting yourself too much, either emotionally or physically. If your spine needs strength, your mind must be strong first of all. So, firstly, your mind needs balance before you can focus on the affected areas. When doing Yoga, start with easy postures such as backbends. Consult a yoga therapist or teacher before you start doing any yoga posture. Panchkarma therapies like Kati basti, Anuvasan basti, niruha basti, special Ayurveda tail abhyanga (message), steam with Ayurvedaic Aushadh like nirgundi patra , rasna, eranda mula etc. will give you great and permanent results. Also, Patrapinda swedan will also help in relieving pain.
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Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Dr. Pramod Saini 87% (10 ratings)
MBBS, MS - Orthopaedics, FNB Spine surgery, Fellowship in Spine Surgery (AO Spine)
Orthopedist, Noida
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Traditional spinal surgeries usually require large incisions and stripping away the muscles of the spinal column just to get to a herniated disc. Now, new technology allows these complex procedures to be performed with the help of a microscope to magnify and illuminate the damaged area. Instead of stripping away the muscle, your surgeon can use a microscope to view the area through a much smaller incision and create a tunnel to the disc. This is done by splitting the muscle to pass the instrument through. Minimally invasive procedures result in less visible scars and shorter recovery times. A discectomy, or removal of the disc, can often be performed this way. However Not all patients are candidates for MIS. Whether the patient an undergo minimally invasive surgery or not is decided on the basis of clinical examination and MRI findings.
4 people found this helpful

Popular Questions & Answers

Sir I am suffering from a back pain from 3 year I got all the test normal what should i do, please advice me I should work out in this condition or not?

Dr. Nazima 88% (1419 ratings)
General Physician, Delhi
For back pain you can take tablet diclofenac whenever pain increases. 1) Try lying on your side. Place a pillow between your knees to keep your spine in a neutral position and relieve strain on your back. If you need to sleep on your back, slide a pillow under your knees. Be sure to sleep on a comfortably firm mattress. 2) maintain posture-Sit upright, with your shoulders relaxed and your body supported against the back of your chair. Try putting a pillow or a rolled towel between your lower back and your seat. Keep your feet flat on the floor. 3) Physical therapists can teach you how to sit, stand, and move in a way that keeps your spine in proper alignment and alleviates strain on your back. They also can teach you specialized exercises that strengthen the core muscles that support your back. A strong core is one of the best ways to prevent more back pain in the future. In severe conditions surgery is required If a bulging disc is putting pressure on a nerve, your surgeon might recommend a discectomy to remove some disc material. Or a laminectomy might be recommended to decompress an area where there is pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. Spinal fusion may be done to help stabilize the spine.
2 people found this helpful

Slipped disc L4-L5 Dr. Suggest me epidural treatment, can you tell me best alternative way to heal my disc as like before. I had took PT but It works only for some days but after some days pain comes back

Dr. T.Shiva Prasad Tummarakoti 92% (919 ratings)
Pain Management Specialist, Hyderabad
Root block is better if severe, do endoscopic discectomy under local anesthesia for permanent relief Hyderabad.
1 person found this helpful

I am suffering from pack pain called sciatica. Wht will be the treatment available for this? And also having diabetes. Please suggest best treatment available.

Dr. Virendra Rastogi 88% (130 ratings)
MBBS, MD (Anaesthesiology)
Pain Management Specialist, Varanasi
You may be having disc prolapse L5/S1. I need to look your MRI Spine lumbo sacral region and the investigation like TLC, DLC, CRP, to know if the disc is protruded, extruded with or without foraminal compression. Maybe the slip disc is compressing your nerve resulting numbness. Medicine may be of some help. Non operative treatment include TFSI, Disc Fix and Percutaneous Endoscopic Lumbar discectomy (PLED) are now available. PLED is one the latest alternative to surgery which is performed percutaneous through a small hole in skin less than 1/2 inch, no blood loss, using local anaesthesia and you will be ambulatory on next day ,need hospitalization for max. 3 days.

I'm Harmeet Singh Chhabra Male 21 years old sir Im having pain in back since 3 months actually I use to do exercise normal exercise at my home using gym dumbles and suddenly I realize pain and from the side of bone till foot it pains badly please advise me regarding this problem. Thank you.

Dr. Virendra Rastogi 88% (130 ratings)
MBBS, MD (Anaesthesiology)
Pain Management Specialist, Varanasi
You may be having disc prolapse L4/5or L5/S1. I need to look your MRI Spine lumbosacral region and investigation like TLC, DLC, CRP, to know if the disc is protruded, extruded with or without foramin compression. Maybe the slip disc is compressing your nerve resulting numbness. Medicine may be of some help. Non operative treatment include TFSI, Disc Fix and Percutaneous Endoscopic Lumbar discectomy (PLED) are now available. PLED is one the latest alternative to surgery which is performed percutaneous through a small hole in skin less than 1/2 inch, no blood loss, using local anaesthesia and you will be ambulatory on next day ,need hospitalization for max. 3 days.
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