Transforaminal lumbar endoscopic discectomy is a procedure for patients suffering from a herniated disc, disc degeneration, or other conditions that compress nerves in the spine. It is often performed after non-surgical approaches like medication and nerve blocks do not effectively control a patient’s pain. Transforaminal lumbar endoscopic discectomy is a minimally invasive or “keyhole” surgery. This means a small incision (usually under 10 millimeters) is made rather than a larger incision that exposes most of the spine. This procedure is also referred to as an "endoscopic" discectomy because an endoscope allows the surgeon to see the spine without having to cut vital tissues. Our physicians are experts in minimally invasive surgery and they believe patients can have a shorter recovery time and less overall pain with this method.
When the patient arrives for surgery, they are given the opportunity to ask any remaining questions before changing into a surgical gown. Once they are ready for surgery, the patient is given general anesthesia, and the surgical site is sterilized so the procedure can begin. A small incision is made along the affected area. The physician then places visualization instruments, like an endoscope and real-time x-ray called a fluoroscope, into the spine to get a better view of the area. An instrument is inserted along a guide wire to move the nerve out of the way to prevent damage and postoperative neuropathic pain. Small tools are then used to remove degenerative segments of the spinal disc to allow for decompression. Once the physician is finished, the disc wall is repaired during a nerve-sparing exercise. A small bandage is placed over the incision site and the procedure ends.
Patients may need to be driven home after their procedure. Patients should rest for a full 24 hours before attempting any level of physical activity. Patients may feel some discomfort around the incision site, but they will be allowed to take pain medication as necessary. As long as post-operative instructions are followed closely and no complications arise, patients should experience a full recovery within six to eight weeks. An Orthopedic and Wellness physician may ask the patient to come back for a few follow-up appointments and have them go to physical therapy between appointments for optimal results.