What you can expectBy Mayo Clinic staff
Surgeons usually perform diskectomy using general anesthesia, so you're unconscious during the procedure. You'll receive the anesthetic medication as a gas — to breathe through a mask — or by an injection into a vein. Small amounts of spinal bone and ligament may be removed to gain access to the herniated disk.
Ideally, just the fragment of disk that is pinching the nerve is removed, relieving the pressure but leaving most of the disk intact. If the entire disk must be taken out, your surgeon may need to fill the space with a piece of bone — taken from a cadaver or from your own pelvis — or a synthetic bone substitute. The adjoining vertebrae are then fused together with metal hardware.
After surgery, you're moved to a recovery room where the health care team watches for complications from the surgery and anesthesia. You may be healthy enough to go home the same day you have surgery, although a hospital stay of one to two days may be necessary if you have any serious pre-existing medical conditions.
Depending on the amount of lifting, walking and sitting your job involves, you likely will be able to return to work within a few weeks. Limit activities involving lifting, bending and stooping for several weeks after diskectomy. You may also need to minimize sitting for long periods of time for a few months. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around your spine.
- Williams KD, et al. Lumbar disc disease. In: Canale ST, et al. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-4/0/1584/0.html. Accessed May 3, 2011.
- Williams KD, et al. Cervical disc disease. In: Canale ST, et al. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-4/0/1584/0.html. Accessed May 3, 2011.
- Open discectomy. North American Spine Society. http://www.knowyourback.org/Documents/open_discectomy.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2011.
- Herniated cervical disc. North American Spine Society. http://www.knowyourback.org/Documents/herniated_cervical.pdf. Accessed May 3, 2011.
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