Percutaneous means "through the skin" or
using a very small cut. Discectomy is surgery to remove herniated
disc material that is pressing on a
nerve root or on the spinal cord.
There are many different kinds of percutaneous discectomy procedures. All of them use small instruments that are inserted between the vertebrae and into the middle of the
disc. Most of the time they are done in a surgery center using local or general anesthesia.
X-rays help guide the movement of the
instruments during surgery. The surgeon can remove disc tissue by either:
You can expect to go home on the same
day you have the procedure.
You can use prescription medicine to control pain
while you recover.
For several weeks after surgery, you'll need to avoid long periods
of sitting and avoid bending, twisting, and lifting.
Lumbar (low back) percutaneous discectomy may be done
It should not be done if you have:
Although surgery for a lumbar herniated disc doesn't work for everyone, it works well for many people. Regular discectomy works a little better than percutaneous discectomy.1
During a percutaneous discectomy, the surgeon
has no way of seeing the herniated disc or the pinched nerve.
The surgery might not remove the disc tissue. So there is no guarantee
that pressure on the nerve will improve.
There are risks with anesthesia.
More research needs to be done to compare this surgery to other types of discectomy and to nonsurgical treatment.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Hu SS, et al. (2006). Disorders, diseases, and injuries of the spine. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed., pp. 221–297. New York: McGraw-Hill.
March 12, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
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