A percutaneous discectomy is a procedure that removes part of a herniated disc that is irritating a nerve, resulting in prompt pain relief. Percutaneous means “through the skin” or using a very small cut. Discectomy is surgery to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or on the spinal cord. The spinal column is made up of bony vertebrae. Between each vertebra, there are soft rubbery structures called discs. When a disc is herniated, the inside of the disc starts to protrude into the spinal canal and put pressure on the nerves, causing pain in the back, legs, neck or arms. A percutaneous discectomy (percutaneous procedures are done by needle-puncture of the skin) removes part of a herniated disc that is irritating a nerve, resulting in prompt pain relief. The procedure is usually reserved for patients who have not had success with conservative treatments like medications, physical therapy and nerve blocks. Typically, the patients are not candidates for surgery because the disc bulge is very small.
There are many different kinds of percutaneous discectomy procedures. All of them use small instruments that are inserted between the vertebrae and into the middle of the disc. Most of the time they are done in a surgery center using local or general anesthesia.