Minimally Invasive Surgeries For Herniated Disks

A herniated disk can cause you pain or numbness and can cause permanent nerve damage, if severe enough. Minimally invasive surgery can relieve the pressure on nerves and relieve some pain.

What a Herniated Disk Is

Between each one of your vertebrae in your spine is a cushioning disk made of cartilage. The disk has a tough, but flexible, thick layer and a jelly-like interior. When vertebrae compress on the disk, the jelly-like material can come through the exterior layer and press on spinal nerves. This will cause much discomfort and may even damage nerves. When there is a possibility of major nerve damage, surgery will be indicated.

As you age your disks become less flexible and are more prone to herniate. Also, repetitive motions due to certain occupational tasks or a sudden stress to the spine can cause a disk to rupture.

How Minimally Invasive Surgery Is Used

A MISS or minimally invasive spine surgery involves a small incision being made at the site of the problem. The surgeon will use a specialized instrument called tubular retractor to hold muscles back so that he/she can perform the desired procedure through the middle opening of the retractor.

Another version of MISS is to use a small incision to treat a disk with a laser while using a high definition camera to guide the surgeon. This procedure doesn't require muscle retraction at all.

For a herniated disk, this may involve removing a portion of the lamina (the part of a vertebra that points outward) or complete removal of a protruding disk (discectomy). This will relieve the pressure of the bulging disk on the nerve.

If the damage is severe enough your surgeon may recommend both a laminectomy and discectomy in the same surgery. Then a bone graft will used to fuse the spine where the disc was. Rods and screws may be added to support the spine.

If the spinal bones are diseased or damaged, this may require more intensive surgery and the surgeon will need to work harder to stabilize the spine in that area.

What the Recovery Involves

MISS procedures are often preferable to traditional surgery because muscles are retracted only as much as necessary, so there is less damage to them and they heal faster. Of course, the smaller incision(s) will also heal faster as well. You will spend 2-3 days in the hospital following surgery.

When you return home you will be encouraged to start taking daily walks and eventually you will scheduled for physical therapy, at a location like Wasilla Physical Therapy, as you recover. During these sessions, your therapist will help you to:

  • Use exercise to strengthen the muscles in your back
  • Reduce back strain while engaging in activities of daily living
  • Learn better ways to move while doing your job so that you can return to your employment.

If your spine was fused, recovery time can take several months. Your physical therapy sessions may be quite intensive and will cover how to walk, stand and sit to stay in proper alignment.