A discectomy is surgery performed most commonly to relieve pain in patients with a herniated disc (also called a slipped or ruptured disc). Discs are cushions that separate the vertebrae (spinal bones) and help protect the spinal column. Each disc has a tough outer layer surrounding a jellylike substance called the nucleus. A herniated disc occurs when all or part of the nucleus is forced through a weakened part of the disc's outer layer. The ruptured disc fragments may place pressure on nearby nerves, causing symptoms such as low back or neck pain, leg pain, and tingling or weakness in leg or arm muscles. Most patients with a herniated disc improve with conservative treatment such as medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, and exercise. However, some patients may require surgery such as a discectomy or spinal fusion to relieve severe or worsening symptoms.
In a discectomy, a surgeon removes all or part of a disc. Depending on the type of disc problem, the surgeon may recommend either of two procedures:
Patients who are considering a discectomy can find comprehensive care at the Orthopaedic Spine Service or the Department of Neurosurgery's Spine Surgery Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
In this video, Orthopaedic surgeon Christopher M. Bono, MD, neurosurgeon Michael W. Groff, MD, and physiatrist Zacharia Isaac, MD, discuss surgical and non-surgical treatment for spine care. The Spine Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital provides personalized, comprehensive care for patients with spinal disorders. Our neurosurgeons and orthopaedic surgeons work with specialists in physical medicine, pain management and imaging to first offer patients innovative non-surgical solutions.
The Orthopaedic Spine Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital provides a wide variety of medical and surgical treatments to effectively treat patients with spine disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis treatment and osteoarthritis therapy. Our spine surgeons work closely with our spine physiatrists who specialize in non-surgical interventions. They also collaborate with the physicians in our Pain Management Center to diagnose and treat patients with a complete range of non-operative and operative care options.
The Department of Neurosurgery's Spine Surgery Service also provides comprehensive patient care for the full spectrum of spinal disorders, ranging from herniated discs to complex spinal reconstruction for tumors and deformity.
Our spine surgeons at Brigham and Women's Hospital can offer a wide array of innovative techniques for the full range of spinal problems. While not all conditions can be effectively treated with minimally invasive surgery, it may be an option for many patients needing a discectomy for herniated disks. The benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery include smaller incisions, lower risk of infection, less blood loss and faster recovery times. We also offer minimally invasive procedures for a wide range of orthopaedic conditions, including knee replacement surgery.
Find an expert spine physician for surgical or non-surgical comprehensive spine care.
Learn how quality and patient safety are at the core of Brigham and Women's mission and vision.
For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.