Although generally considered a safe procedure, diskectomy carries the following risk of complications:
Leaking spinal fluid
Injury to blood vessels and nerves around the spine
Injury to the protective layer surrounding the spine
4 Preparing for your Procedure
In order to prepare for a diskectomy, you may be required to stay away from any food or drink for a particular period of time. You doctor will provide the necessary instructions.
5 What to Expect
Read on to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after your diskectomy procedure.
Surgeons usually perform diskectomy using general anesthesia, so you're unconscious during the procedure. You'll receive the anesthetic medication as a gas — to breathe through a mask — or by an injection into a vein.
Small amounts of spinal bone and ligament may be removed to gain access to the herniated disk. Ideally, just the fragment of the disk that is pinching the nerve is removed, relieving the pressure but leaving most of the disk intact.
If the entire disk must be taken out, your surgeon may need to fill the space with a piece of bone — taken from a cadaver or from your own pelvis — or a synthetic bone substitute. The adjoining vertebrae are then fused together with metal hardware.
After surgery, you're moved to a recovery room where the health care team watches for complications from the surgery and anesthesia. You may be healthy enough to go home the same day you have surgery, although a short hospital stay may be necessary if you have any serious pre-existing medical conditions.
Depending on the amount of lifting, walking and sitting your job involves, you may be able to return to work in two to six weeks. If you have a job that includes heavy lifting or operating heavy machinery, your doctor may advise you to wait six to eight weeks before returning to work.
Limit activities involving lifting, bending and stooping for four weeks after diskectomy. You may also need to limit the amount of time you spend sitting for four weeks following the surgery.
A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around your spine.
6 Procedure Results
Understanding the results of your diskectomy will be made possible by your doctor.
Diskectomy reduces herniated symptoms in most individuals who have clear signs of nerve compression, such as radiating pain.
However, diskectomy may not be a permanent cure, because it does not do anything to reverse the process that initially led to disk herniation.
To avoid re-injuring your spine, your doctor may recommend weight loss, a low-impact exercise program, and ask that you limit some activities that involve extensive or repetitive bending, twisting or lifting.
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