This minimally invasive procedure is used to remove a degenerated disc to relieve the compression of nerve roots in the lumbar spine. It is performed through a small incision on the back.
The surgeon uses a portable x-ray machine to identify the diseased vertebral level(s). Then the surgeon makes a small incision directly above the target level. A series of dilators of increasing size are carefully passed through muscles and soft tissue. The surgeon slides a tubular retractor over the dilators and removes them, creating a working channel that leaves muscle tissue intact. The surgeon may use a microscope or endoscope to direct surgical instruments through the working channel and remove bone at the rear of the vertebrae to create an opening. The surgeon works through this opening to remove the disc.
An implant filled with bone graft is placed in the empty disc space. This lifts the vertebrae to the proper height, realigning the vertebral bones and relieve painful pressure from pinched nerve roots.
The surgeon will also place fusion instrumentation for additional support, most commonly screws and rods. Bone graft may also be placed along with the hardware. Over time, the bone graft will grow through and around the implants, forming a bone bridge that connects the vertebral bodies above and below. This solid bone bridge is called a fusion.
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