Commonly asked questions regarding disc herniation surgery

Commonly asked questions regarding disc herniation surgery


A herniated disc is a common injury that can affect any part of the spine. People often refer to a herniated disc as a slipped or ruptured disc and typically are feeling pain in the neck, back, arms or legs. When the disc ruptures or herniates, part of the fluid or nucleus pushes through the outer edge of the disc and begins to leak into the spinal canal, putting pressure on the nerves.

You can herniate a disc without knowing it. They can sometimes show up on spinal images of people who have no symptoms of a disc problem.  However, some may cause severe pain including, numbness or tingling, and weakness.  Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine, but can occur in the cervical spine as well.

Treatment options for a herniated disc depend on the location and severity of the injury.  It may be treated with pain-relieving medications, muscle relaxers and corticosteroid injections. A person may benefit form physical therapy as well.  However, if the conservative treatment options are not effective, they may require a surgical procedure.   If you are a candidate for the surgical procedure, following are a few common questions and answers that will hopefully be helpful to you:

  • Where is the skin incision?  I place the skin incision in a skin crease on the left hand side of the neck.  It is typically an inch to an inch and a half.  It is not a very large incision.
  • If you take the back disc out, and fuse my neck, will I lose motion and walk around with a stiff neck? The typical response is no, because most discs have already worn out.  Unfortunately, disc wear-out is just the natural process of degeneration or aging. The most common levels that wear out are C4/5, C5/6 and C6/7.
  • Will I set off an alarm (beep) when I go through the airport?   No, the metal is titanium and inside your neck.

For more information and a consultation, please feel free to contact my office at your earliest convenience.  I’m always available to answer any questions or concerns!

Dr. Stephen P. Courtney, M.D.

Stephen P. Courtney, M.D. is a board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and the founder of the spine division at Plano Orthopedic Sports Medicine and Spine Center. He has been practicing medicine in Plano since 1995 and has developed his practice exclusively for neck and back disorders.

Dr. Courtney has been Chief of Orthopedic Surgery at the Medical Center of Plano and a member of the hospitals Executive and Operating Room Committees. Dr. Courtney has also founded a spine company known as Eminent Spine, which is a medical device company that manufactures spinal implants sold throughout the United States. He travels the country training other physicians on how to utilize these products.

Selected as one of Dallas’ Best Doctors by D Magazine, Dr. Courtney is known for his straight-forward, honest approach and operates only if clearly indicated with proven techniques which has earned him an excellent reputation among his professional colleagues, medical peers and patients.

Dr. Courtney is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, North American Spine Society and the Texas Spine Society. Contact us today!