A discectomy is the most common surgical treatment for ruptured or herniated discs of the lumbar spine. When the outer wall of a disc becomes weakened, it may tear allowing the soft inner part of the disc to push its way out. This is called disc herniation, disc proplapse or a slipped or bulging disc.Once the inner disc material extends out past the regular margin of the outer disc wall, it can press against very sensitive nerve tissue in the spine. The disc material can compress or even damage the nerve tissue, and this can cause weakness, tingling or pain in the back area and into one or both legs. Open discectomy uses surgery to remove part of the damaged disc to relieve the pressure on the nerve tissue and alleviate the pain. The surgery involves a small incision in the skin over the spine, removal of some ligament and bone material to access the disc and the removal of some of the disc material.Open discectomy has been performed and improved over the course of the past 60 years. Over time, the procedure has been refined, and improved diagnostic tools-such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans-have allowed physicians to gain a better understand of which patients will have the best results from the surgery.

Information from the National Institutes of Health, March 2009