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Discectomy:  aka spinal disc surgery, spinal disk removal, microdiscectomy for a herniated disc




What is it?

Of all of the different back surgeries, discectomy means that the surgeon removes a disc that is invertebral.  This type of plate is flexible and connects two vertebrae in the spine that are adjacent.  What intervertebral disks do is they are like the shocks of an automobile - they help to absorb shocks and are important to protect the patient’s spine and brain from impact caused by a body’s movement.

As people increase in age, the disks between their vertebrae degenerate and finally dry out.  Then tears will form in the fibers that hold them in place.  When a disk bulges out, it can press on the root of a nerve and cause many problems.  Some of the problems can be bowel problems, bladder problems, or muscle weakness. The goal of a discectomy is to help to relieve all of the pressure on a patient’s nerve roots. 


The Operation

The patient will be given general anaesthesia before the surgery begins.  When the patient is asleep, the surgeon will make an opening in the patient’s vertebral canal and move the patient’s dura and bundle of nerves known as the “cauda equina” to one side.  This exposes the disk.  If the surgeon finds that part of the disk has been moved out from the area that is between the patient’s vertebrae and is in the nerve canal, it’s going to be removed. If it’s found that the disk is partially displaced and fragmented, or if it is bulging a great deal, the surgeon will remove the damaged part as well as the the part of the disk that is lying between the patient’s vertebrae.



Alternatives to Surgery

Before the doctor decides to do this type of surgery, the patient will undergo physical or medical therapy. The surgery is only done if symptoms which affect the patient’s bowel or bladder develop, or the therapy isn’t helping the patient’s condition.



Before the Surgery

The patient will need to have x rays and also neuroimaging studies, which will include a myelogram, MRI, and CT.  The patient will also need to have clinical exams which will help the doctor to determine where the affected disk is located.  They also may have a general physical to check for other conditions and make sure that they are in good health. The patient will need let the surgeon know about any other health conditions that they have and what medications that they are on.

Sixty minutes before the surgery, the patient will be given an injection that will dry up their internal fluids and make them tired.





After the Operation - In the Hospital

When the patient awakens, they will find that they are lying flat and that they are face down.  This is a position that the patient must stay in for a few days, with the exception of changes to their position so that they don’t develop bedsores.  The patient may find that they have stiffness or pain in their back.


After the Operation - At home

The patient is discharged four or five days following surgery with strict instructions. They will not be allowed to sit up for more than twenty minutes at the most. They must not used a straight back - any chair that they use must be a reclining chair.  They can’t twist, lift heavy objects that are heavy, or bend at the waist.


Eventually the patient will be able to start gentle walking, whether it’s outdoors or indoors, and exercise will be gradually increased.  The patient should continue exercise for the following four weeks. 


After two weeks, the patient can start gentle swimming or riding a stationary bicycle and start sleeping on a mattress that is firm. 


If the patient starts experiencing something stronger than mild pain in their back or leg, they should slow down.  It’s important that they don’t sit in a single place for a long amount of time, such as an extended ride in the car.


The patient should expect to resume their normal activities within a month to six weeks. 



As with all surgeries, there is always the risk of some complications.  Here are some of the complications that may occur when a discectomy is performed:

Anesthesia complications
Nerve damage


Nerve damage

Leg or bladder muscle paralysis


General Advice

This surgery has one of the best success rates when it comes to helping with relieving pain in the back.  It has been found to relieve pain in ninety percent of the patients who have it.  However, it does not work for everyone.  But this is something that is dependent on a few things, which include the amount of time that the patient has had the condition.  This type of surgery has a result that is good to excellent in patients that are over the age of 60. The surgery is instrumental in relieving pain in both a patient’s leg and back.

Everything should be tried to help relieve the patient’s pain before resorting to surgery. But sometimes the surgery becomes necessary, both to help relieve pain and to relieve some of the problems that the disk has caused. The surgery and recovery may seem like a lot to deal with, but in the long run a lot of people feel that they made the right choice.




Estimated Costs for Discectomy Surgery


Country Estimated Cost
USA $9000+
India $2800-5000
Malaysia $2000-5000
Singapore $10000+
Thailand $2000-5000

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