Microdiskectomy: Back Surgery To Go
Back surgery patients who used to remain in the hospital for five to six days are now walking out within hours after the operation. This day surgery is being performed at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, for athletes and others who need repair on herniated disks.
Microdiskectomy takes about an hour. Recovery time at home has been reduced to two to four weeks. “Compared to the standard surgical procedure, microdiskectomy has a shorter healing time, a quicker back-to-work time and is less costly,” says Dr. David Baskin. The technique can also be used for bone spurs caused by disk degeneration.
A herniated disk occurs when the disk, or cushion, pushes out from between the spine’s vertebrae. The part of the disk that herniates presses against the nerves that extend to the legs, causing pain, numbness, tingling or weakness. The severity of pain ranges from mild to excruciating. Partial paralysis of the leg is possible.
Ideal for Athletes
Baskin told Medical Breakthroughs, “The micro-surgery procedure is ideal for athletes and exercisers because the incision is smaller, and there is less need to detach muscles in the affected area. A surgical microscope is used to see the area through a one-inch incision, and a small amount of bone is removed. The degenerated part of the disk is cleaned out, and enough tissue is left to provide the necessary cushion between the vertebrae. If more soft tissue were cut or removed, patients would require more time to recover.
“Some patients require little or no rehabilitation other than strengthening and stretching the muscles of the back,” explains Baskin. “Walking and performing normal daily activities can be resumed the day of surgery, but we still recommend four to six weeks before participating in active exercise.”
Does this represent the final step in back surgery? “We haven’t even scratched the surface,” claims Baskin. “Although we do some cleaning out, what is left is not a perfect disk. Now, researchers are working on a prosthesis — an artificial disk that would replace the herniated one. That will be a major breakthrough in back surgery.
“Since the technique requires familiarity with the surgical microscope,” concludes Baskin, “people interested in microdiskectomy should contact orthopedic surgeons or neurosurgeons specifically trained in this technique.”