The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


What is the difference between a discectomy, a laminectomy, and a fusion?

A discectomy involves the removal of a disc. A laminectomy involves the trimming or removal of the lamina bone. A fusion is an operation where two or more vertebral bones are joined together. A single surgery may include more than one of these three procedures. For example, one might remove a bit of the lamina to get to a bad disc which is then shaved down by doing a discectomy. One might do a discectomy to prepare a space for a lumbar fusion. Sometimes when we say laminectomy, we mean partial laminectomy (also called laminotomy). When we say discectomy, we usually mean a partial discectomy where only the bad part of the disc is removed.

Endoscopic procedures are minimally invasive surgeries. Some can be done without an incision and without a hospital stay. In an endoscopic discectomy, damaged disc material is trimmed under local anesthesia and guided by x-ray. The procedure takes about an hour, and patients normally feel little, if any, pain or discomfort. There are no stitches.

Unfortunately, not all back surgeries can be performed using minimally invasive techniques. But if you have put off having a “bad back” repaired for years for fear of a major operation, see your neurologist to find out if conservative measures or one of the newer procedures might benefit you.

P.S. Endoscopic discectomy differs from open lumbar disc surgery in that there is no trauma to back muscle, no bone removal, and no large incision.



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

Copyright © 2007, Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group. All rights are reserved.  No part of this web site may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored, electronically or on paper, without the written permission of the Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc.
Last modified: 07/27/08