Nucleoplasty, also known as minimally invasive discectomy or percutaneous disc nucleoplasty is a relatively new procedure used to remove a portion of mildly damaged disc due to injury in the neck or back that is compressing nearby nerves causing pain and restricted movement, degenerative spine condition like bulging disc or spinal fracture. Nucleoplasty can be done in an hour approx. under the influence of local anesthesia or mild sedation. No incisions are needed to perform this procedure and patient can go back home almost immediately after the surgery. People undergoing nucleoplasty experience a shorter recovery and lower risk of surgical complications as compared to the conservative methods of spine surgery. A person who is suffering from a contained disc herniation due to which he/she may experience the radiating pain in legs or arms along with some back pain and did not responded to rest, medications, physiotherapy or any other conservative treatment can opt for Nucleoplasty procedure.
In nucleoplasty, a probe is placed into the disc with the guidance of X-ray. A small needle is inserted into the intervertebral disc much like an epidural steroid injection to decompress the disc without any cuts whereas in traditional form of surgery, surgeon may make a long incision to reach the disc and remove them manually.
Some of the advantages of nucleoplasty procedure are:
• No need of general anesthesia
• Minimally invasive or less incision
• Less complications than in the open surgery
• No stay required at the hospital
• Short surgery time
• Faster recovery
Doctor will evaluate the patient’s health by performing some tests such as MRI, radiography, X-ray, CT scan or a bone scan in some of the cases which will help in locating the correct position of the damaged disc and plan the treatment procedure accordingly. During the nucleoplasty procedure, patient is given sedatives to ease the pain and relax. Surgeon will then insert a needle in the disc and place a catheter into the incision to separate the muscles from above the disc. Surgeon will use radio wave technique or heat technique to reduce the size of the disc, relieving the pressure. In some cases, surgeon will remove the disc completely or partially through the catheter to make more space for the spine and the spinal nerves. Probe with a small camera is passed through the cut to have more clear view of the problem.
Patient can go home after some time post the surgery, but in some cases, patient may be kept under observation for a day. Patient can resume to normal life after 2-3 days but advised not to do strenuous work at least for couple of months till the healing is completed. Even though this is a minimally invasive procedure.
There are some complications or risks involved in this treatment procedure such as:
• Slight pain at the operated area
• Unexpected bleeding
• Infection at operated area
• Recurrence of symptoms
• Nerve or muscles damaged surrounding the spine