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Once you know that you have a herniated disc, you will usually be given prescriptions and other pain management techniques to help you. Doctors want to wait and see, in most cases, if you will heal without surgical intervention. If you don’t, there are several different kinds of herniated disc surgery that can be performed.
Herniated disc surgery is reserved for special cases. This is because most herniated discs will repair themselves within weeks of the time they are noticed. Also, some patients may not be good candidates for herniated disc surgery because of unrelated health issues.
If you go several weeks without improvement, you and your doctor may begin to consider herniated disc surgery. If your pain, weakness, or stiffness makes it difficult or even impossible to engage in your normal activities, it might be a good option.
The doctor will give you a physical examination to determine if you are indeed limited by your herniated disc. By the end of the exam, the doctor will have determined what your loss of motion is and whether your reflexes are intact.
After testing, the doctor will know if you have an operable herniated disc. With all this information, the doctor will make a recommendation, but the choice of a herniated disc surgery will usually be yours.
The most common of these surgeries is the diskectormy. Some people call it the “open diskectomy.” When you have this procedure, you will have to at least have spinal anesthesia, and your doctor may insist that you have general anesthesia instead.
During this herniated disc surgery, the surgeon will remove the part of the disc that has pushed out to pinch a nerve or nerves. If all goes well, just a small portion of the disc that is actually putting pressure on the nerve is excised. The goal with any herniated disc surgery is to keep the back in its original form as much as possible.
Sometimes a laminectomy or a laminotomy is performed during a diskectomy. These procedures are done to remove small bony structures that contribute to the compression of the nerve or nerves. A facetectomy may also be done to take out a part of the joint that is pushing on a nerve or nerves. These can all be parts of herniated disc surgery.
You may be able to have a related kind of herniated disc surgery called a microdiskectomy. The only differences are that the incision is smaller and the doctor will use a microscope to work with. The stay in the hospital and recovery time may be shorter, too.
In rare cases, a doctor might suggest using a herniated disc surgery called “spinal fusion.” If you are confronted with this decision, don’t make it on the advice of one doctor. Ask at least one other doctor for an opinion on the matter.
Spinal fusion is just what it sounds like. A part of the spine is fused together so that the vertebrae can no longer move in their natural way. It is a painful procedure, and when you are done you will have to learn new ways to move and to walk.
If you are given options for herniated disc surgery, listen carefully. The choice you make can determine how well the operation works. It can change your recovery time. Most of all, your choice can determine your quality of life after the surgery is a thing of the past.