Discectomy - Medical Negligence Solicitors – Compensation Claims

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Discectomy

The spinal discs are wafers of spongy material that cushion the spinal discs in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas of the spine. They are composed of a slightly more fibrous annulus that keeps in the nucleus pulposus, which keep bone from grinding on bone in the spine. During wear and tear or during an injury, the nucleus pulposus can be pushed into the space taken up by the spinal cord or the space where spinal nerves travel out to the body.

One needs a discectomy when the disc has herniated and causes pain and nerve damage to the surrounding nerves. The surgery is designed to take the pressure off the affected nerve so that shock-like pain, tingling, and numbness or weakness does not occur. Usually the piece of disc that has herniated is trimmed off using microsurgery.

Patients who undergo a discectomy do so under general anesthesia. In an open procedure, the surgeon makes an incision so that he can see the disc itself and trim off the abnormal parts. It takes about one hour to perform a discectomy. The patient must be laying prone on the table during the procedure so that the back itself can be exposed.

The incision made by the surgeon is a total of 3 centimeters in length. Overlying muscle is dissected from the spinal bone and a piece of bone plus ligament is removed in a procedural move called a laminotomy. At this point, the surgeon is able to visualize the actual disc and spinal vertebral bodies. The disc is removed and measures are taken so that more disc doesn’t herniate in the future. After this has been done, the incision can be closed and the wound is dressed.

After awakening from spinal disc surgery, the patient will notice an almost immediate improvement in their symptoms. It takes a number of weeks for all the symptoms to resolve themselves. In the meantime, the patient needs pain medication to handle the residual pain. Hospitalizations are generally one day in length with discharge after a night in the hospital. Patients get to wear a lumbar corset to protect the spine as the whole thing heals. Cervical collars are used when the surgery is done at the neck.

Risks & Complications

The surgery of spinal discectomy is not without its risks. The biggest risk a patient needs to worry about is that the other fragments of the disc can herniate and cause another set of symptoms in the future. The risk of this complication happening is about ten to fifteen percent, regardless of the success of the first surgery.

Many people have partial or total relief of their symptoms but not everyone gets relief. The total success of the spinal discectomy is between 85 and 90 percent of the time. This means that up to 10 percent of people will not get an adequate amount of pain relief at the end of the recovery time. Those people who have had severe pain or severe numbness prior to the surgery have a greater chance of surgical failure.

There are other treatable complications of spinal discectomy surgery. These include leaks of the spinal fluid out of the spinal canal. It is often treated with a blood patch. Bleeding can occur and can impact the nerve function. Infection can happen within the wound which can lead to a bloodborne infection. Antibiotics can take care of this type of complication. Blood clots can form in the spinal canal leading to a spinal stroke and the possibility of permanent paralysis or numbness.

Because you are under general anesthesia, you will have the chance of having an allergic or other severe reaction to anesthesia. Nerves can be damaged in the process of surgery and pain can actually worsen after the surgeon is performed. Patients can have a loss of sensation in the area supplied by spinal nerves or by the spinal cord itself. This usually affects the lower extremities.


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