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Disc extrusion

What is a disc extrusion?

A disc extrusion, also known as a herniated or ruptured disc, occurs when a rip or tear forms in the disc’s outer layer (annulus fibrosus), allowing the gel-like material from the disc’s inner core (nucleus pulposus) to leak out of the disc and into the spinal canal. The condition most commonly occurs in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine, since this area bears most of the body’s weight and endures stressful bending and twisting motions on a daily basis.

How is a disc extrusion diagnosed?

The path to a disc extrusion diagnosis begins with a trip to your physician. He or she will listen to you describe your symptoms and medical history, and then will conduct a physical exam and a series of tests to assess your range of motion. An MRI, X-ray or CT scan may also be ordered to confirm your disc extrusion diagnosis and to pinpoint the exact disc that is causing your pain.

What causes a disc extrusion?

The most common cause of a disc extrusion is aging. Spinal discs endure years of stress as they facilitate movement in the spine. As aging occurs, this wear and tear causes the discs to deteriorate — the annulus fibrosus becomes drier and the nucleus pulposus loses its water content. These changes make the discs more prone to damage. Additionally, certain individuals are at a higher risk for developing a disc extrusion due to lifestyle factors such as obesity, jobs that require repetitive motion, participation in high-impact sports and tobacco use.

What are the symptoms of a disc extrusion?

A disc extrusion can cause symptoms in two ways. First, because the annulus fibrosus contains nerve endings, the actual tear in the disc can cause minor, localized pain. More severe symptoms, like radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness, can occur when the leaking nucleus pulposus material compresses a nerve root.

How is a disc extrusion treated?

Physicians treating patients with a disc extrusion will typically start by recommending a series of conservative treatments to manage the patients’ pain. Common methods of conservative treatment for a disc extrusion include pain medication, epidural steroid injections, hot and cold compresses and physical therapy. For most patients, these methods are all that is ever needed to manage their pain and improve their quality of life.

Will I need surgery for my disc extrusion?

Some patients will find conservative treatment unsuccessful in relieving their disc extrusion pain. When this happens, surgery can be the next option. While there are many surgical options available to patients with a disc extrusion, few offer the same advantages as the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Florida.

Our procedures use muscle-sparing techniques including a less than 1-inch incision, leading to less surgical blood loss and shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open spine surgery. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about the advantages of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, and to receive a no-cost review* of your MRI to find out if you are a candidate.