One of the most commonly performed procedures in the country, discectomy removes part of a herniated disc that causes pain by irritating a nerve. In this open surgery, the surgeon first removes a portion of the lamina (the roof over the spinal nerves) of the vertebra to gain access to the spinal canal. Gently moving the nerves aside to protect them, the surgeon then removes the herniated disc material. Removing the material frees the nerves from pressure and irritation.
Discectomy is probably the most common operation used to treat sciatica. In general, the operation is performed on patients who have experienced intense back and leg pain--pain that has disrupted the normal course of their lives for more than 6 weeks.
Depending on the location and the severity of the disc damage, discectomy can be performed using open surgery through a small incision. Patients may leave the hospital the day of the surgery or stay one night.