Spine surgery can offer patients significant relief for chronic back or leg pain related to disc herniation. Yet traditional surgical approaches require a lengthy recovery that can make many patients hesitant. The endoscopic discectomy procedure uses less invasive techniques, so patients can see relief sooner — with much less downtime.

“Endoscopic spine surgery techniques have been perfected over the last decade. In endoscopic discectomy procedures today, patients can be up and moving (and go home) the same day as the surgery. They experience the same degree of pain relief as they would with an open procedure – but with a shorter and less painful recovery,” says Dr. Bruce M. Frankel, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the MUSC Health Spine Center.

Less Invasive Spine Surgery Offers Multiple Benefits

In an endoscopic discectomy procedure, Dr. Frankel makes a tiny incision in the patient’s back, then introduces a small dilator right next to a disc herniation in the spine. Under direct visualization with an endoscope, he then shaves off the disc herniation to free the pinched nerve that’s causing the pain.

According to Dr. Frankel, patients experience several benefits from this endoscopic approach:

  • Less downtime: “There’s a shorter recovery, with most patients on their feet soon after surgery. Patients experience significantly less postoperative pain than with traditional operations.”
  • Similar outcomes: “Outcomes are similar to those from open procedures. While open procedures work quite well, patients can experience setbacks from the significant pain they experience during their recovery. We eliminate that setback with an endoscopic approach.”
  • Minimal sedation: “Patients don’t need to be intubated like they would during open operations.”
  • Less blood loss: “Most patients have minimal to no blood loss. In an open procedure, blood loss poses a larger concern.”
  • Shorter procedure: “Traditional spine surgeries can last several hours. We can complete an endoscopic discectomy procedure in 30-45 minutes.”
  • Lasting results: “Patients typically see long-term and hopefully permanent leg pain relief.”

Dr. Frankel has seen how chronic nerve pain severely limits patients’ lives. With endoscopic approaches to spine surgery, he hopes to help patients add quality and function back to their day.

“Less invasive spine surgery techniques offer significant benefits with little downside to patients. It’s an alternative to other complicated surgeries such as large back fusion procedures that may have significant downsides and may not offer permanent results. Endoscopic techniques help patients affected by chronic back or leg pain feel better, so they get back to their daily activities without undergoing a complicated surgery,” says Dr. Frankel.

MUSC Spine Center Has a Treatment Option for Everyone

Endoscopic discectomy is just one way specialists at the MUSC Health Spine Center treat chronic back and leg pain. The specialists at the center find the right treatment solution for each patient, including non-operative treatments, such as pain management and physical therapy.

The center’s spine specialists are trained in all types of surgical approaches: They are proficient in open and traditional surgeries, when such an approach will provide the best outcome for patients. And they perform a range of less invasive spine surgeries in addition to endoscopic discectomy, including minimally invasive rhizotomies, fusions and reconstructions.

The multidisciplinary spine center tackles patients’ pain from multiple angles. Depending on individual circumstances, patients may meet with one or more of the following care specialists:

  • Pain physicians
  • Physical therapists
  • Physiatrists
  • Surgeons, specializing in orthopaedics or neurosurgery

“Our approach to back and spine care is both multimodal and collaborative. Our goal is to match every patient with a treatment that offers the relief they seek,” he says.

For more information, contact Dr. Frankel at frankel@musc.edu.