Percutaneous Discectomy

Percutaneous Discectomy

Richard Kang, MD Blog

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Herniated discs can be painful, but thanks to a relatively new medical procedure called a percutaneous discectomy, you may be able to find relief in just a single visit to the doctor. If you’re experiencing back pain caused by a herniated disc, a percutaneous discectomy may be your best option for quickly getting rid of your symptoms.

What is a Herniated Disc?

The goal of a percutaneous discectomy is the removal of the part of a herniated disc that is pinching a nerve. Your spinal column consists of an alternating pattern of bony vertebrae and supportive discs. These discs consist of a soft, malleable center and a harder, more solid shell. Also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, herniated discs occur when the delicate center escapes through a crack or hole in the exterior.

While some cases of herniated discs might be harmless, others may put pressure on nearby nerves, causing pain, numbness, and frailty in the arms or legs. In these instances, a percutaneous discectomy may be needed to correct the problem.

What Happens During the Procedure?

A doctor performing a percutaneous discectomy uses a small needle to reach the affected disc, guided by a live x-ray feed called fluoroscopy. Once the needle is in place, a small, rotating probe is embedded inside, allowing the doctor to carefully remove tiny pieces of the disc. These holes relieve the herniation, unpinching affected nerves while still allowing the spine to maintain its structure and integrity.

Percutaneous discectomies typically require less than an hour, and are fairly simple outpatient procedures. As such, only local anesthesia to the affected area is required to eliminate any pain the treatment might cause. This not only avoids the dangers associated with general anesthesia, but means that patients can usually return to their daily lives only a few days after the procedure is performed.

What are the Typical Results?

Percutaneous discectomies are a highly successful option for treating herniated discs, and have been proven to reduce pain and increase function nearly 90 percent of the time. Because this treatment option is still relatively new, that number is also expected to continue to grow. There is virtually no scar because of the minimally invasive nature of the procedure, which also greatly lowers the chances of complications when compared with discectomies that are performed using open surgery.

Am I a Viable Candidate?

Most doctors will not perform a discectomy before attempting more traditional treatment options like pain medication or physical therapy first. This is to avoid unnecessary corrections to the disc if you are only suffering from a minor or temporary disc disorder like a bulging disc, which generally do not protrude far enough out of the shell to cause any lasting pain. You should always consult with your doctor about all of your symptoms to determine if you have a herniated disc before deciding to undergo a percutaneous discectomy.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’re ready for prompt relief from your herniated disc pain, contact CORE Medical & Wellness to see if a percutaneous discectomy might be the right treatment option for you. Call 888-521-0688 or contact us online to set up an appointment. CORE Medical & Wellness has a variety of treatment methods available to help with a number of spinal disc disorders. Learn more at

Dr. Richard Kang is double board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine, and he  completed an interventional pain medicine fellowship at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University – College of Physicians and Surgeons.  Read his full bio here.