What Can You Expect?

Most people with a disc herniation do not get herniated disc surgery. However, if your doctor or medical back specialist recommends herniated disc surgery, then it’s something you may decide to do.

Keep in mind that disc surgery is not a sure thing. There is no guarantee it will work.

The type of surgery you have will depend on the exact nature of your disc herniation. Typically your surgeon will be able to tell you the type of procedure after reviewing your MRI.

3 herniated disc surgery procedures are as follows.

1. Open Discectomy

As you know by now, the reason a disc herniation can hurt so much is the leaking fluid from your disc presses or irritates a nerve. That hurts. A discectomy removes the leaked fluid that contacts or irritates the nerve. Patients are put under with general anesthesia for this procedure.

2. Endoscopic Discectomy

An endoscopic discectomy, like an open discectomy, removes leaked fluid from the disc herniation that contacts the nerve. However, this procedure is different from the open discectomy in being much less invasive. An open discectomy requires at least a 3 cm incision and peeling muscle from the spine.

An endoscopic discectomy, on the other hand, makes a tiny incision and uses an endoscopic probe with a video recorder attached, through which tiny surgical instruments are inserted to remove the excess disc fluid that herniated. An endoscopic discectomy is much less invasive than an open discectomy. You can go home the same day.

3. Percutaneous Discectomy

This procedure is performed when a disc hasn’t ruptured or herniated, but instead bulges resulting in pain. The procedure is done with a needle-like instrument called a cannula that removes tissue from inside the bulging disc to relieve pressure. This procedure is used less often than an open discectomy, but is much less invasive than an open discectomy. Patients remain awake during this procedure.

Recovery Expectation from Herniated Disc Surgery

Some patients enjoy immediate herniated pain relief upon waking. Others’ pain goes away over several weeks following the surgery.

If you have an open discectomy, you’ll be directed to take it very easy for several weeks. Absolutely no lifting or twisting.


Most open discectomies are successful to some degree. However, as with any surgery, there are potential complications of bleeding and infection. In the case of a discectomy specifically, there is a slight chance of fluid leaking into the spinal canal.

You must keep in mind that the majority of people suffering a herniated disc will not be a candidate for herniated disc surgery. Instead, most people must pursue alternative, less invasive treatment options.

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