Discectomy is a surgical procedure performed to alleviate pain caused by herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. This minimally invasive procedure is used to relieve the pain caused by a ruptured disc by removing the damaged disc or disc fragment, which is located between the vertebrae of your spine. If you have a herniated disc or are experiencing excessive pain in your spine, contact LAMIS (Los Angeles Minimally Invasive Spine) Institute for evaluation and treatment.

What is Discectomy?

A discectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a herniated or ruptured disc in the spine. This procedure is also known as a microdiscectomy or disc decompression.

The goal of a discectomy is to relieve the pain and other symptoms caused by a herniated disc. This procedure is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, which means that the patient can go home the same day.

During a discectomy, the surgeon will make a small incision in the back and then remove the herniated disc. In some cases, the surgeon may also need to remove a small portion of the vertebrae.

What are the Different Types of Discectomies?

As stated above, a discectomy is a surgery performed to remove a herniated disc and there are several types of these surgeries. The type of surgery performed will depend on the location of the herniated disc, as well as the severity of the condition.

The most common type of discectomy is an open discectomy, which is performed through a large incision in the back. The surgery involves removing a portion of the disc, which relieves pressure on the nerves. This can help to reduce pain and improve function.

A less invasive type of discectomy is a microdiscectomy. The procedure is performed through a small incision in the patient's back and entails removing the herniated disc material that is pressing on the spinal nerve. Recovery from a microdiscectomy is typically quicker and less painful than from a traditional open discectomy, and the risks of complications are also lower.

A percutaneous discectomy is another less invasive type of discectomy. Percutaneous discectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat herniated disks and other spine conditions. The procedure is performed through a small incision in the back and does not require cutting through muscle or other tissue. A small tube is inserted into the disk space and a special tool is used to remove the herniated disk or other material. The procedure is typically done as an outpatient procedure and patients can usually return to their normal activities within a few.

Why Might I Need a Discectomy?

There are many reasons why someone may need a discectomy. The most common reason is to relieve pain from a herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the inner, gel-like portion of the disc leaks out through a tear in the outer layer of the disc. This can put pressure on the nearby nerves, causing pain. A discectomy can remove the herniated portion of the disc and relieve the pressure on the nerves.

Other reasons for a discectomy include:

  • A disc that has become hardened and shrunken (known as a disc prolapse)
  • A disc that has become infected
  • A large disc fragment that has broken off and is pressing on the nerves
  • A tumor that is growing on the disc

How are Herniated Discs and Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosed?

Herniated discs and degenerative disc disease can be diagnosed in a few different ways. The most common way is through an MRI or CT scan. These imaging tests can show the discs in your spine and help to identify any abnormalities.

Another way to diagnose these conditions is through a physical examination. Your doctor will likely ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam to look for any signs of disc problems.

What are the Benefits of the Procedure?

Benefits of a discectomy may include:

  • Relief from herniated disc-related pain
  • Reduced pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improved mobility

What are the Risks Associated With Discectomy?

Although the procedure is considered safe, there are several risks associated with discectomy surgery, which include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clots
  • Spinal fluid leak
  • Persistent pain

How to Prepare for the Procedure

There are a few things you can do to prepare for a discectomy:

  • Learn as much as you can about the procedure. This will help you understand what to expect and help you make informed decisions
  • Talk to your doctor about your expectations and concerns
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of complications after surgery
  • Get in shape. Being in good physical condition will help you recover from surgery more quickly
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure

What to Expect During Consultation

When you come in for your consultation, the doctor will likely ask about your medical history and current symptoms. They will then do a physical examination. After that, the doctor may order imaging tests, such as an MRI, to get a better look at the herniated disc. Once the doctor has all the information they need, they will sit down with you and explain the discectomy procedure. They will also let you know what to expect during and after the surgery.

Questions to ask your Doctor Before the Procedure

Before agreeing to the test or the procedure, ensure you ask your doctor a few questions to help you prepare for the surgery and to enlighten you on what to expect. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask:

  • What is the expected recovery time after the procedure?
  • What are the risks and potential complications associated with the procedure?
  • What are the possible side effects of the procedure?
  • What are the chances that the procedure will be successful in relieving my symptoms?
  • Is there anything I can do to reduce the risks associated with the procedure?
  • What will be the pain level after the procedure?
  • What are the chances that I will need additional surgery after the procedure?
  • How long will I need to stay in the hospital after the procedure?
  • When can I expect to return to normal activities after the procedure?
  • Is there anything I need to do to prepare for the procedure?

What Happens Right Before the Procedure?

There are several things that your surgeon may ask you to do to prepare you for the surgery. For example:

  • You may be asked to stop taking any blood-thinning medications for some time before the surgery
  • You may also be required to undergo a physical exam and various imaging tests to confirm the location and size of the herniated disc
  • You will likely be asked to fast for at least six hours before the surgery
  • You may also be asked to shower and shampoo using antibacterial soap
  • Finally, you may be asked to take a laxative the night before surgery to help clear the bowels

What Happens During Discectomy?

Although there are several surgery options, below is a list of what you can expect during the procedure:

  • You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and pain-free during the surgery
  • Using a microscope, your surgeon will make a small incision in your back and then gently move aside the muscles to reach the disc
  • Your surgeon will remove the herniated part of the disc and sometimes some of the surrounding tissue
  • After the disc is removed, your surgeon will close the incision with stitches

This entire process takes roughly an hour to complete.

What Happens After the Procedure?

Discectomy surgery is generally performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient is discharged on the same day.

Recovery times vary depending on the individual but are typically around four to six weeks. During this time, it is important to rest and avoid any strenuous activity or lifting. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help with the healing process.

What are Some of the possible Restrictions after Discectomy surgery?

There are several possible restrictions after discectomy surgery. These may include avoiding strenuous activity or lifting for some time, as well as avoiding bending, twisting, or stooping. Additionally, patients may be instructed to sleep with their head and neck in a neutral position and to use a pillow for support.

Incision Care

After disc surgery, you will have an incision in your back. Proper care of your incision is important for healing. Ensure you do the following to make your healing process easier:

  • Keep your incision clean and dry. You may shower 48 hours after surgery. Gently wash your incision with soap and water. Do not soak in a tub or go swimming until your incision is fully healed.
  • Watch for signs of infection. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, discharge, or increased pain around your incision.
  • Apply a clean, dry bandage as directed by your surgeon.
  • Take pain medication as prescribed.
  • Follow your surgeon's instructions on activity and lifting. You may need to avoid heavy lifting for 6 weeks or more.
  • Attend all follow-up appointments with your surgeon.

Possible Medications after Discectomy Surgery

The most common medication after a discectomy is an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe a stronger anti-inflammatory medication if needed. Other common medications include muscle relaxants and pain medications.

When to Call Your Doctor after the Procedure

It is important to call your doctor if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms following a discectomy:

  • Persistent pain that is not relieved by medication
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Fever
  • Redness, swelling, or drainage from the incision site

Recovery and Prevention

The main goals of recovery and prevention after Discectomy surgery are to reduce pain and inflammation and to prevent further injury to the discs and nerves. These can be achieved through a combination of physical therapy, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

Physical therapy is an important part of recovery, as it can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the spine.

Exercise is also important, as it can help to improve circulation and reduce inflammation. It is important to avoid activities that put too much strain on the back, such as lifting heavy objects or bending over for long periods.

Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, can also help to reduce the risk of further injury and improve overall health.


The results of Discectomy surgery can be very effective in relieving pain from a herniated disc. However, there is no guarantee that the surgery will be successful and some patients may still experience pain or other symptoms. If this happens, your doctor may recommend another type of treatment.

Are there Patients who cannot have a Discectomy?

Some patients cannot have a Discectomy. These include:

  • Patients who have a disc that is completely degenerated and has no disc space between the vertebrae
  • Patients with severe arthritis of the spine
  • Patients with a disc that is herniated but has not caused any symptoms
  • Patients who have had previous surgery on the spine

What is the Recommended Diet After Discectomy?

Diet after a Discectomy will vary depending on the individual's health and specific situation. However, in general, it is recommended that patients eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and that they avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of saturated and unhealthy fats.

Related Surgical Procedures

Sometimes, your surgeon may perform different surgical procedures while performing the discectomy at the same time. These procedures include:

  • Laminectomy — This procedure removes the back part of the vertebra (lamina) to take pressure off the spinal nerves.
  • Spinal fusion — This procedure joins (fuses) two or more vertebrae together. This makes the spine stronger and less likely to move.
  • Foraminotomy — This procedure enlarges the small openings (foramina) between the vertebrae. This gives the nerves more room to exit the spine.

Get Discectomy Treatment Near me

If you have a herniated disc in the spine, discectomy might be the most suitable treatment option for you. We invite you to contact LAMIS (Los Angeles Minimally Invasive Spine) Institute in Los Angeles to discuss if this can be a suitable option for you. LAMIS Institute is a comprehensive spine center that offers a range of treatments for spine conditions, including discectomy. Call us today at 310-734-6088.

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