Understanding Spinal Disk Problems -- Diagnosis & Treatment
What Are the Treatments for Spinal Disk Problems? continued...
A surgeon may use a hollow needle to remove some of the soft core of a swollen disk so that it no longer puts pressure on a nerve. Other microsurgical procedures can remove fragments of core disk material that have broken through the fibrous outer wall.
Diskectomy is the surgical removal of part of a herniated disk that is done to relieve pressure on the nerve. In this procedure, the core of the disk is removed, leaving the tough outer casing in place between the vertebrae.
Fusion (surgically fusing vertebrae together to immobilize them) can also be done for back instability. It sometimes brings long-term relief, but there is no guarantee of permanent recovery.
Another surgical option is a procedure called a laminectomy, in which a small amount of vertebral bone is removed to relieve pressure on the nearby nerve. The surgery is used most often to treat lumbar spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the lumbar spinal column.
Any invasive therapy near the spinal cord has the potential for serious side effects and long-term complications; surgery should be undertaken when the potential benefit is greater than the risks -- when the herniated disk is causing weakness or paralysis of nerves going to muscles or serving basic body functions, such as bowel or bladder function.
The safety and long-term success of disk replacement remain to be seen, because the technology has not approached the success of artificial joints and plastic heart valves. Someday, disk replacement may be a medical option.
Will Insurance Cover Any of These Procedures?
Some of the treatment options discussed above may not be covered by your medical insurance. There may be specific criteria required by your insurance company and other options, such as disk replacement, may be considered to be experimental. To avoid paying out of pocket, call your insurance company when in doubt.