Herniated Disc

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Surgery for a Herniated Disc

Surgery for a slipped disc has come a long way recently with the development of minimal access, minimally invasive techniques. Although traditional open surgery may sometimes be necessary, the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center is a leader in newer, minimally invasive options.

The goal of microdiscectomy is to remove the bulge from the herniated portion of the disc and to relieve pressure on the affected nerve.

Minimally invasive microdiscectomy: This minimal-access technique reduces the trauma associated with open surgery and allows patients a shorter recovery time, less post-operative pain and scarring, and a faster return to normal activities. Minimally invasive spine surgery requires only tiny incisions and often takes less than an hour. The goal of minimally invasive microdiscectomy is to remove the bulge from the herniated portion of the disc and relieve pressure on the affected nerve. The surgeon makes a half-inch incision and uses x-ray guidance to insert a circular retractor tube. The surgeon uses a microscope to carefully remove the herniation and free the nerve. The surgeon then removes the retractor  and closes the incision, using plastic surgery techniques to reduce scarring. Patients are walking within a few hours of the procedure and will typically have either complete or near complete relief of their pain following recovery from their surgery. Patients are often discharged the same or the next day and can often return to work in a few days.

Dr. Eric Elowitz and Noah Emmerich discuss the microdiscectomy that relieved the actor's pain

Video: Dr. Eric Elowitz and Noah Emmerich on Microdiscectomy

At the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, individuals treated for a herniated disc have only a brief hospital stay (usually not even overnight), and 95 percent of patients will have complete relief of their pain. (Find Doctors Who Treat Herniated Discs.)

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Reviewed by: Eric Elowitz, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: October 2014
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI