Discectomy Overview

A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc – an elastic cushion that sits between each vertebra – ruptures its outer layer, which can cause the softer inner layer to squeeze out and compress a nerve. This can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in an arm or a leg. Depending on your symptoms, a herniated disc can be treated with medications, physical therapy, or surgery.

What is Discectomy?

Discectomy is a surgical treatment to remove a herniated (ruptured) disc. It is sometimes performed in combination with other back surgeries.

Discectomy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The goal of the specialists at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery’s Spine Service is to treat your symptoms with the least amount of surgery possible. In most cases, treatments such as anti-inflammatory medicines, physical therapy, and exercise will effectively treat the symptoms of a herniated disc. If, however, a patient continues to experience severe symptoms after applying these non-operative treatments, the following procedures may be considered:

  • Microdiscectomy is focused on removing the ruptured disc, and does not involve much surgery on the bones, joints, ligaments, or muscles of the spine.
  • Discectomy in the lower (lumbar) back may be accompanied by other surgical procedures, such as laminectomy (vertebra removal), foraminotomy (widening of the space where nerves leave the spinal column), or spinal fusion (fusing vertebrae).
  • Discectomy in your neck also is often accompanied by laminotomy, foraminotomy, or spinal fusion.

What is a herniated disc? What are the risk factors for getting one? What are its symptoms? Melvin Makhni, MD, Spine Surgeon and Director of Complex Spine Surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, explains the causes of disc herniations and how to treat them.

Orthopaedic Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

The Department of Orthopaedic Surgery provides diagnosis and treatment of orthopaedic diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system, including the bones and joints of the arms, legs, and spine, and nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has long been committed to not only the care of our patients, but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care – involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and areas for improvement. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we are measured compared with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women’s Spine Care Team

Our spine surgeons work closely with our spine physiatrists (also known as physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors), who specialize in non-surgical interventions. They, along with physicians at the Pain Management Center, collaborate to achieve an accurate diagnosis and offer comprehensive non-operative and operative care options.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our spine experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

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