Discectomy


Diagnosis of discectomy

Before surgery, make a plan with your surgeon so you know what you need to do and what to expect before and after surgery.

You will likely need to stop smoking at least two weeks before surgery, and stop taking medications such as aspirin that can have a blood-thinning effect at least two days beforehand. The day before surgery, you may need to stop eating and drinking to ensure you receive anesthesia on an empty stomach.

Make sure you have a plan for transportation after surgery, as well as for at-home recovery, such as making sure you won’t have to bend over to pick anything up.

Recovery

Following a discectomy, you will likely spend a couple of days in the hospital. Most people can walk soon after the sedation wears off, but some activities such as bending and sitting for long periods may be uncomfortable.

Physical therapy and home exercises will help you recover. Your surgeon or therapist will tell you when it is safe to return to normal activities. Many people can return to work within a few weeks, but full recovery can take up to eight weeks. Talk with your doctor about how soon you can return to more strenuous physical exercise.

It is essential to start moderate activities such as walking as soon as recommended by your surgeon to facilitate the healing process. Movement helps improve circulation, reduce swelling, and reduce the formation of scar tissue that can hinder healing and lead to complications down the road.

Learning strategies to protect your back may prevent future problems. These can include exercise to strengthen your back muscles, good posture habits, maintaining a healthy body weight, and using proper lifting techniques.

Results

Your discectomy will take place in a Dignity Health location and you will receive general or spinal anesthesia.

While you are sedated, your surgeon will make an incision in your back. In a microdiscectomy, your surgeon will make a tiny incision through which a microscope is inserted. This will allow your doctor to see your spine through the smaller incision in order to remove the affected spinal disc.

In a standard approach, your doctor will use a larger incision to remove the disc. In some cases, a small portion of your vertebrae will also be removed to facilitate better access and visibility.

We treat back patients of all ages with discectomy.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.