What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During diskectomy

Surgeons usually perform diskectomy using general anesthesia, so you're unconscious during the procedure. You'll receive the anesthetic medication as a gas — to breathe through a mask — or by an injection into a vein. Small amounts of spinal bone and ligament may be removed to gain access to the herniated disk.

Ideally, just the fragment of disk that is pinching the nerve is removed, relieving the pressure but leaving most of the disk intact.

If the entire disk must be taken out, your surgeon may need to fill the space with a piece of bone — taken from a cadaver or from your own pelvis — or a synthetic bone substitute. The adjoining vertebrae are then fused together with metal hardware.

After diskectomy

After surgery, you're moved to a recovery room where the health care team watches for complications from the surgery and anesthesia. You may be healthy enough to go home the same day you have surgery, although a short hospital stay may be necessary if you have any serious pre-existing medical conditions.

Depending on the amount of lifting, walking and sitting your job involves, you may be able to return to work in two to six weeks. If you have a job that includes heavy lifting or operating heavy machinery, your doctor may advise you to wait six to eight weeks before returning to work. Limit activities involving lifting, bending and stooping for four weeks after diskectomy. You may also need to limit the amount of time you spend sitting for four weeks following the surgery.

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve the strength and flexibility of the muscles around your spine.

Jun. 27, 2014