Endoscopic Disc Decompression

Introduction

Bulging, protruding or herniated discs can result in a lot of pain and suffering for people with chronic back pain or nerve impingement. Modern advances in pain management techniques have allowed our pain specialists to help many of such patients.

How did this happen?

A herniated lumbar intervertebral disc that has “slipped out” is actually a result of its gelatinous interior pushing its way through the outer wall can create a bulge or a protrusion that could cause pain, numbness or weakness due to spinal nerve impingement. Muscle weakness, sharp “shooting” pain or sensations, such as “pins and needles” often radiate from “pinched or compressed” spinal nerve root to the lower extremities.

Additionally, as the spine degenerates due to aging, trauma or disease, the collapsing structures can also cause a disc to press against a nerve root which make it difficult for the individual to walk their usual distances, or perform simple tasks such as sitting or standing. Bending or flexing the back near the damaged disc usually results in an increase amount of pain.

What is Endoscopic Disc Decompression?

Endoscopic techniques for diagnostic purposes have been in use since the late 1970s. The endoscopic surgery techniques that became widely used in the 1990s for other surgical disciplines are now available for the interventional pain treatment of spine conditions.

An endoscope is an elongated, hollow tube through which the specialist doctor can manipulate tiny instruments under direct visualisation. Usually, the tube is around 6-9 mm in diameter. Once the protruding disc is located, an instrument is inserted through the interior of the tube is used to remove small bits of tissue from within the disc. This reduction in the disc’s interior volume enables the protrusion to recede, returning the disc to its former shape. This releases the pressure from nearby nerve roots from herniated or bulging discs, and relieves spinal canal pressure in the case of central disc protrusions. The entire procedure generally takes less than 60 minutes, plus a brief recovery period and a single follow-up appointment with the doctor.

What are the advantages of a minimally invasive approach?

The greatest advantage of a minimally invasive approach versus traditional, open spinal surgery is the lack of collateral damage to muscles, nerves and skin tissue. This technique allows for faster healing and recovery. Patients are often surprised by the immediate relief they feel from this day procedure, though most will take about 1 week to get better.

Who is suitable for Endoscopic Disc Decompression?

Individuals who can achieve partial or complete relief from their symptoms through non-surgical means are not good candidates even for such a minimally invasive procedures. We advise patients to exhaust more conservative treatment options first. If several months of treatments seem to have no effect or the pain grows even worse, the next logical step would be the least invasive procedure possible.

Relief from debilitating chronic pain

Once you have had an endoscopic disc decompression, you will need to refrain from violent flexing or heavy lifting for at least 2 weeks, but most people can resume everyday light activities and more sedentary work after just one to two weeks of rest. Any slight discomfort that might be felt from the procedure is often significantly outweighed by the relief from debilitating chronic pain.