An Endoscopic Discectomy can provide Relief from Chronic Lower Back Pain

Atlantic Spine Center

Spine Health Blog

Back PainEndoscopic Spine Surgery

Kaixuan Liu educates patients and offers tips about the benefits of endoscopic discectomy surgery

Back pain is a condition that most people will endure at some point in their lives. For chronic back pain sufferers, an endoscopic discectomy, a minimally invasive surgery with a rapid recovery time, can often provide relief from unremitting lower back pain when conservative measures have failed, shares Dr. Kaixuan Liu.

A type of "keyhole" surgery using a thin, telescope-like instrument known as an endoscope, endoscopic discectomy requires only a small incision compared to traditional "open" surgery and has become a popular option for pain relief with minimal downtime, Dr. Liu says.

"Surgery is only considered after all other non-operative measures such as medication, physical therapy and other pain-relieving tactics haven't worked," he explains. "At that point, advanced diagnostic and pain mapping techniques allow us to make an accurate diagnosis of what's causing the pain and determine if endoscopic discectomy can offer relief. For so many who have coped long-term with ongoing lower back pain, it can."

Who needs endoscopic discectomy?

What conditions can be treated with endoscopic discectomy? Regardless of where it's done on the spine, the procedure typically is used to remove damaged disc material that's causing pain. Dr. Liu states that an endoscopic discectomy is often used to treat:

Bulging discs Herniated discs Torn discs Radiculitis and/or radiculopathy – types of tingling, pain or weakness radiating from compressed nerves along the spine During the procedure, the endoscope is inserted through a tiny incision and attached to a small video camera projecting an internal view of the patient onto TV screens in the operating room. The surgeon passes small surgical instruments through the incisions, which are typically no larger than a half-inch long, and visualizes the patient's specific disc problem using x-ray fluoroscopy technology. Then the problematic disc or disc fragment is pulled out with a tool known as a grasper or vaporized with a laser.

"Endoscopic discectomy tackles some of the most common causes of lower back pain that severely impact people's quality of life," Dr. Liu says. "In about an hour's time, the surgery is finished, and patients can go home within hours."

Advantages of endoscopic discectomy: In addition to a short procedure time, endoscopic discectomy offers many advantages to patients, Dr. Liu notes. Because muscles moved aside instead of cut, as occurs during open surgery, endoscopic discectomy boasts a much shorter recovery time.

Other advantages include:

  • Local anesthesia
  • Minimal pain
  • Minimal blood loss
  • Smaller chance of surgical complications, such as infection
  • Minimal scar tissue after incisions heal
  • High success rate
  • No hospitalization

Any surgery carries risks, and endoscopic discectomy is no different. But these risks are greatly minimized because of the smaller incisions used, Dr. Liu says, and the procedure is successful in 9 of 10 patients.

"The vast majority of patients who undergo endoscopic discectomy for relief from chronic lower back pain achieve this highly desirable goal," he adds. "Lower back pain becomes a distant memory and they return to all their favorite activities."

Watch our 40 second video on Endoscopic Discectomy.