Percutaneous Discectomy


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:

  1. Local anesthesia is administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist

  2. The physician uses X-ray guidance to position a small needle

  3. 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

  • Neurologic findings

  • No improvement after 6 weeks of conservative therapy

  • Imaging studies indicating a disc herniation.

  • Well maintained disc height of 60%