Extrusion of an intervertebral disc beyond the intervertebral space can compress the spinal nerves and result in symptoms of pain, numbness, and weakness.
Discectomy is a surgical procedure in which one or more intervertebral discs are removed. The primary indication for discectomy is herniation (extrusion) of an intervertebral disc. Discectomy is intended to treat symptoms by relieving pressure on the affected nerve(s).
Lumbar discectomy can be performed by a variety of surgical approaches. Open discectomy is the traditional approach. In open discectomy, a 2- to 3-cm incision is made over the area to be repaired. The spinal muscles are dissected, and a portion of the lamina may be removed to allow access to the vertebral space. The extruded disc is removed either entirely or partially using direct visualization. Osteophytes that are protruding into the vertebral space can also be removed if deemed necessary.
The main alternative to open discectomy is microdiscectomy, which has gained popularity. Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves a smaller incision, visualization of the disc through a special camera, and removal of disc fragments using special instruments. Because less resection can be performed in a microdiscectomy, it is usually reserved for smaller herniations, in which a smaller amount of tissue needs to be removed. A few controlled trials comparing open discectomy with microdiscectomy have been published and reported that neither procedure is clearly superior to the other, but that microdiscectomy is associated with more rapid recovery.;Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have also concluded that the evidence does not support the superiority of 1 procedure over another.
The most common procedure for cervical discectomy is anterior cervical discectomy. This is an open procedure in which the cervical spine is approached through an incision in the anterior neck. Soft tissues and muscles are separated to expose the spine. The disc is removed using direct visualization. This procedure can be done with or without spinal fusion, but most commonly it is performed with fusion.
Summary of Evidence
For individuals who have lumbar herniated disc(s) and symptoms of radiculopathy rapidly progressing or refractory to conservative care who receive lumbar discectomy, the evidence includes randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, health status measures, quality of life, and treatment-related mortality and morbidity. In individuals with lumbar radiculopathy with disc herniation who receive discectomy, there is sufficient evidence to support the use of discectomy in individuals who have not responded to “usual care” for six (6) weeks. The evidence is limited by a lack of high-quality trials. In most trials, a high percentage of individuals in the conservative care group crossed over to surgery. This high degree of crossover reduced the power to detect differences when assessed by intention-to-treat analysis. Analysis by treatment received was also flawed because of the potential noncomparability of groups resulting from the high crossover rate. Despite the methodologic limitations, the evidence has consistently demonstrated a probable short-term benefit for surgery and a more rapid resolution of pain and disability. The evidence is sufficient to determine that the technology results in an improvement in the net health outcome.
For individuals who have cervical herniated disc(s) and symptoms of radiculopathy rapidly progressing or refractory to conservative care who receive cervical discectomy, the evidence includes two (2) RCTs, a long-term observational study, and a systematic review. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, health status measures, quality of life, and treatment-related mortality and morbidity. There is considerably less evidence on cervical discectomy than on lumbar discectomy. The best evidence on the efficacy of cervical discectomy consists of two (2) small RCTs comparing discectomy with conservative care, and a systematic review of these trials. Although there is less evidence for this indication, it does not differ substantially from lumbar herniated disc, showing that individual-reported symptoms and disability favor surgery in the short-term, and that long-term outcomes do not differ. Because cervical discectomy closely parallels lumbar discectomy, with close similarities in anatomy and surgical procedure, it can be inferred that the benefit reported for lumbar discectomy supports a benefit for cervical discectomy. Based on the available evidence and extrapolation from studies of lumbar herniated disc, it is likely that use of discectomy for cervical herniated disc improves short-term symptoms and disability. The evidence is sufficient to determine that the technology results in a an improvement in the net health outcome.