A percutaneous discectomy is a procedure where part of a herniated disc is removed, resulting in rapid pain relief. The spinal column is made up of bony vertebrae separated by soft, rubbery structures called discs. When a disc is herniated, it protrudes into the spinal canal and compresses the nerves, causing pain in the back, legs, neck, and arms. In a percutaneous discectomy, a physician removes the part of a herniated disc that is irritating the nerves.
The procedure is performed with local anesthesia in an outpatient setting, usually in less than an hour. The procedure involves the following steps:
Local anesthesia is administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist
The physician uses X-ray guidance to position a small needle
The needle is inserted and a probe is used to remove small portions of the disc
Studies show that percutaneous discectomy effectively reduces pain and the need for medication, improving function in up to 90% of patients. In addition, the rate of complication is lower for percutaneous discectomy versus surgery.
Indications for percutaneous discectomy include the following:
Unilateral leg pain greater than back pain
Radicular symptoms in a specific dermatomal distribution
Positive straight leg raising test or positive bowstring sign, or both
No improvement after 6 weeks of conservative therapy
Imaging studies indicating a disc herniation.
Well maintained disc height of 60%