This minimally-invasive procedure, performed through a tube called a cannula, is designed to relieve the pain caused by herniated disc tissue pressing against nerve roots in the spine. The surgery is performed under general anesthesia, and the patient is allowed to leave the hospital the same day.
The patient is positioned, and the back is cleansed and sanitized. The surgeon uses a fluoroscope to confirm the location of the disc protrusion. A tiny incision is made just next to the midline of the back. A tapered metal rod called a dilator is passed between vertebrae down to the ligamentum flavum, a wall of ligaments that covers the rear of the spinal canal. A cannula is passed over the dilating tube and pushed down to this wall, and the dilator is removed. The cannula now acts as a working channel for the surgeon. An endoscope is placed through the cannula, allowing the surgeon to view the surgical area on a video monitor. The surgeon will use the endoscope to guide the tools during the procedure.