FAQs on Percutaneous Discectomy in Philadelphia

Percutaneous discectomy is a non-surgical procedure for spine related back and neck pain. The term “percutaneous” means the method of entering the body through the skin. This procedure involves decompresses the spinal discs and facet joints through removal of diseased disc tissue.

How common is back pain?

According to statistics, back pain affects approximately 2% of the general population. For some patients, back pain is relieved with medications, physical therapy, and rest. When the intervertebral disc moves out of position or the inner gel (nucleus) protrudes through the outer layer (annulus), pain occurs.

What is the purpose of the percutaneous discectomy?

An intervertebral disc lies between each spine vertebra, and these structures cushion the spinal bones and absorb impact. When a disc becomes injured from trauma or damaged from disease, they weaken and are prone to bulging and herniation. These conditions put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, which leads to pain and other symptoms. The percutaneous discectomy relieves pressure by suctioning out the excessive disc material causing the pain.

What happens before the procedure?

The pain specialist will go over the pros and cons of the percutaneous discectomy, and have you sign a consent form. When you come to the outpatient center, you must change into a gown, and an IV is placed in your arm. To monitor vital signs, monitoring equipment devices are attached.

How is the percutaneous discectomy done?

The patient is positioned on the exam table in the prone position (on stomach), and the back is cleansed with an antiseptic solution. To help the patient relax, a mild sedative may be given. The doctor will first inject the back with a local anesthetic, and use x-ray guidance to insert a larger needle near the disc. Once correct placement is assured, a small probe passes through the needle and suctions out the disc material. This decompresses pressure, relieving spinal nerve pain. After the needle is removed, a bandage is applied.

What happens after the procedure?

Once the procedure is completed, a nurse will monitor you for 20-30 minutes. This is to make sure vital signs are stable, and you do not have a reaction to medications or complications. Be sure to bring someone to drive you home. The nurse will give you discharge instructions. You do not need to soak in a tub or pool for 24 hours, and you should rest for 1-2 days.

What are the benefits of the percutaneous discectomy?

This procedure allows for the patient to avoid extensive major surgery, is minimally invasive, and is effective. The patient does not have to stay in the hospital, and recovery time is minimal.

What risks and complications are associated with the discectomy?

This is a low-risk procedure used to treat disc-related pain. All minimally invasive procedures do carry a chance of complications. With the percutaneous discectomy, these include:

  • Hematoma
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Spinal cord compression
  • Excessive intracranial pressure

What is the success rate of the percutaneous discectomy?

A large clinical study found that the percutaneous discectomy had an 89% success rate. This research found the procedure to be safe and effective for the treatment of disc pain. A successful procedure occurs when the pain specialist withdraws disc material, relieves chronic pain, and helps the patient enjoy improved quality of life.


Blahd, W.H. & Keller, R.B. (2011). Percutaneous Discectomy for Herniated Disc. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/percutaneous-discectomy-for-a-herniated-disc

Dasenbrock, H.H., Juraschek, S.P., Schultz, L.R. et al. (2013). The efficacy of minimally invasive discectomy compared with open discectomy: a meta-analysis of prospective randomized controlled trials. Journal of Neuroscience, 16(5), 452-462.

Junkin, T.L., Lynch, P.J., and Wuollet, A.L. (2010). Percutaneous Discectomy. Retrieved from: http://www.paindoctor.com/treatments/procedures/percutaneous-discectomy