Bulging disc surgery is used to treat severe cases of the condition. It is generally reserved for cases that cannot be effectively treated with less invasive techniques — such as pain medication and physical therapy — and continue to cause life-altering symptoms. The main purpose of the surgery is to physically remove the portion of the disc that is causing symptoms bringing pain relief and a return to everyday life.

There are two main types of bulging disc surgery: traditional open neck and back surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. While both options attempt to treat the root cause of bulging disc pain, there are many differences in their approach. Some of these distinctions include:

  • Inpatient versus outpatient — Traditional open back surgery is an inpatient procedure with a hospital stay lasting up to a few days. Minimally invasive spine procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and patients are usually released within hours of the procedure.
  • Anesthesia — Traditional open back surgery requires general anesthesia to sedate the patient due to significant trauma to the body. Minimally invasive procedures, on the other hand, are more likely to be performed using IV sedation and local anesthesia.
  • Incision —The incision required for minimally invasive procedures is small, usually less than one inch, as opposed to the one required for traditional open back and neck procedures, which is several inches or more.
  • Patient satisfaction — Minimally invasive spine surgery has a higher level of patient satisfaction compared to traditional open spine surgery and is less likely to cause failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS).
  • Risk of infection — The risk of infection is much lower with minimally invasive spine surgery because the incision is smaller and the procedure is usually performed in an outpatient setting at a separate spine surgery center instead of a hospital.
  • Recovery time — Due to the less invasive nature and smaller incisions, the recovery time for minimally invasive spine surgery is usually just a few weeks versus months or more for traditional open neck and back surgery.

If you’d like to learn more about bulging disc surgery, or any of the treatment options for the condition, contact your physician and discuss whether you could be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.