Cervical endoscopic discectomy is a form of minimally invasive surgery that can remove herniated disc material from the neck with less collateral trauma than traditional discectomy and discotomy surgeries. Discectomy remains the most common type of spinal surgery and is often performed on the cervical region, particularly to treat intervertebral abnormalities at C4/C5, C5/C6, C6/C7 and C7/T1.
We spend much time and effort on this website informing readers about the mostly asymptomatic nature of cervical herniated discs and why these structural irregularities are typically misdiagnosed as being the actual source of neck pain. However, this essay will take a different approach and simply focus on treatment of truly pathological forms of herniated discs in the neck region. Before reading this essay, we must recommend that all disc pain sufferers thoroughly research our herniated disc website, which provides unrivaled coverage of the problems associated with bulging disc therapy throughout the modern healthcare system.
This discussion explores the use of cervical endoscopic discectomy to treat spinal disc pathologies in the neck.
Cervical Endoscopic Discectomy Defined
Let’s look at the 3 words associated with this procedure in order to clearly define it for all readers: Cervical refers to the cervical spine, which is the vertebral column in the neck region. Endoscopic means that the technique is performed using a specialized minimally invasive surgical tool called an endoscope. Discectomy is a type of spinal surgery that is used to remove part, or all, of a degenerated or herniated disc which is diagnosed as being the source of neck pain and related symptomology. Therefore, this technique refers to a minimally invasive version of discectomy surgery, performed on the cervical spine using a specialized set of tools that allow visualization of the spine without large incisions.
Endoscopic Discectomy Procedure
During an endoscopic discectomy in the neck, the surgeon will first review the diagnostic data, including all of the imaging studies to plan their path towards successful treatment of the intervertebral pathology. They will make one or more small incisions in the neck, often in the side or frontal side of the neck, called an anterior approach, although dorsal entrance wounds might be used in some instances or in addition to anterior incisions. The wounds will be short and small and will not require deep levels of cutting or muscular dissection. If soft tissues are in the way, they can be moved aside when needed to allow for insertion of the endoscope.
Once the incisions are complete, the endoscope and various catheters can inserted into each incision, allowing placement of small precise surgical tools to achieve the treatment objective. The endoscope itself allows excellent visualization inside the body, providing a close, fully lit view of the entire treatment area which is sent to a large monitor and/or a headset worn by the surgeon.
The surgeon will treat the condition using various case-specific tools and techniques to remove some, or all, of the herniated disc. They will then make sure that the spine is stable. When complete, the surgical tools are removed, as are the catheters and endoscope. Once all surgical tools have been removed, the incisions can be closed using sutures, surgical tape or other superficial skin-level closures.
Cervical Endoscopic Discectomy Outcomes
Cervical endoscopic discectomy is advantageous, since it causes less trauma to the spine, causes less patient discomfort and heals much faster than larger incision operations. Patients have less chances of suffering long-term muscle issues, such as scar tissue formation, from dissection common to dorsal incision approaches.
Although endoscopic versions of discectomy, and all manner of anterior cervical discectomy techniques, are better than traditional dorsal approaches, the operation itself is still grossly overused and is often employed in cases of misdiagnosed neck pain. Remember that discectomy is the most common types of neck surgery, which makes little sense since most herniated discs are not symptomatic.
Therefore, we provide some advice that covers most patient circumstances: First be sure that the herniated disc is verified as the source of pain by at least 3 doctors before even considering surgery. Even symptomatic herniated discs will usually resolve without any treatment, with the passage of time alone. If you have done your due diligence and know for a fact that your pain is only curable with disc surgery, then by all means pursue minimally invasive care, such as that offered by a cervical endoscopic discectomy for best results. However, also consider alternate treatment paths which are also minimally invasive, such as IDET and nucleoplasty.