A discectomy is an operation that relieves the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by a herniated disc or bone spurs.  It involves removing all or part of an intervertebral disc. Pain among other symptoms, may occur when an intervertebral disc herniates/ruptures and its contents squeeze out and place pressure on nerve roots or the spinal cord. Bony outgrowths, called bone spurs or osteophytes, which form when the joints of the spine calcify, may also cause these symptoms.


Pressure placed on neural structures, such as nerve roots or the spinal cord, by a herniated disc or bone spur may irritate these neural structures and cause:


  • pain in the neck and/or arms
  • lack of coordination
  • Numbness or weakness in the arms, forearms or fingers.
  • Pressure placed on the spinal cord as it passes through the neck (cervical spine) can be serious since most the nerves for rest of the body (e.g., arms, chest, abdomen, legs) have to pass through the neck from the brain


  • Leg pain that limits your normal daily activities
  • Weakness or numbness in your leg(s) or feet
  • Impaired bowel and/or bladder function


Your neurosurgeon will remove disc material and/or a portion of the bone around the nerve roots and/or spinal cord to relieve these compressed neural structures and to give them additional space.  If appropriate for your individual needs minimally invasive techniques will be utilized.

  • Patient lies on their back for cervical discectomy and their front for lumbar discectomy.
  • A small incision is made.
  • After pulling aside the soft tissue – fat and muscle, your surgeon exposes the source of the neural compression.
  • Disc material – and, in some cases, a portion of the bone – around the nerve roots and/or spinal cord is then removed to relieve the compressed neural structures and to give them additional space.
  • Your neurosurgeon closes and dresses the incision.


Your neurosurgeon will have a specific post-operative recovery/exercise plan to help you return to normal life as soon as possible. The amount of time that you have to stay in the hospital and recovery will depend on this treatment plan.

Please keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient.

Content adapted from Medtronic Catalyst patient education http://catalyst.medtronic.com/catalyst/business-of-medicine/patient-education/

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