Not all conditions that cause back pain can be treated successfully with endoscopic discectomy surgery. Depending on how the malady is interacting with surrounding structures and what the ailment is will determine if you are a candidate for the procedure.
An endoscopic discectomy is performed to treat nerve compression caused by a herniated disc. When a vertebral disc herniates, the bulge of material that breaks through may come into contact with the exiting spinal nerve roots. If this happens there are two possible results.
Chemical inflammation – when the outer shell of a disc cracks or tears it releases an inflammatory chemical that causes pain and inflammation when it comes in contact with surrounding area. This is one of the causes for pain felt in the general area of the herniation.
Nerve Compression – As the inner material of a disc pushes through the outer shell it may compress nerve roots exiting the spinal canal. This compression results in pain that is felt along the nerves pathway into either the upper or lower extremities of our body. The limb that is affected will depend on where the herniation occurred; a cervical disc herniation will be felt in the arm and hand, while a lumbar herniation will cause pain and other symptoms in the leg and foot.
The goal of the endoscopic discectomy is to gain minimal access to the damaged disc, remove the herniated material, and cauterize the disc to prevent further leakage of disc material. A traditional discectomy will require a large incision for the surgeon to gain access to the damaged disc.
An endoscopic discectomy uses technology to its advantage. Instead of a 5 or 6 inch incision, the incision only need be about the size of a postage stamp. Through this opening, the surgeon will insert a working tube, where he will be able to insert and manipulate special tools to perform the operation. The endoscope, like a small video camera, will display real time video on a screen that is magnified for the surgeon to locate the damaged disc.
This revolutionary surgery allows for a much quicker recovery time, rarely requires any stay in a hospital, and is able to be performed in an outpatient setting. Another great advantage is that unlike traditional open back discectomy, there is no need for general anesthesia. You will be awake for most of the procedure; many patients have felt relief of their symptoms during the actual surgery itself.
Full recovery from an endoscopic discectomy may take between 2 to 4 weeks, but you can expect that you will be back at work within a week or two. Not everyone is a candidate for an endoscopic discectomy, but you can clearly see the advantages that the procedure holds over a traditional open back discectomy.v