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APM Spine & Sports Physicians

Automated Percutaneous Disc Decompression

What is automated percutaneous disc decompression?

This is a minimally invasive procedure that offers patients an alternative to major surgery when they suffer from leg pain due to a herniated (protruding) disc. The procedure is performed under fluoroscopic guidance using local anesthetic and light sedation. It is much less invasive than traditional surgical treatments.

Who would benefit from automated percutaneous disc decompression?

Patients who are experiencing leg pain from certain types of disc herniations would benefit from this procedure.

How does the procedure work?

This procedure serves to relieve the pressure on the compressed nerve root by reducing pressure inside the herniated disc. During the procedure a small introducer needle is inserted into the disc. A tiny auger is inserted that mechanically removes nuclear material. This will then leave an empty space within the disc, and will allow the material that has extruded out of the disc to re-enter the disc. This will then remove pressure from the compressed nerve and decrease the leg pain.

Is automated percutaneous disc decompression better than surgery?

This procedure is minimally invasive, whereas surgery usually requires the cutting of muscles or bones. The risk for scarring and infection is therefore reduced. The recovery time is also faster. The procedure’s efficacy (how well it works) appears to be very good, although it has not been directly evaluated against traditional surgical discectomy, in which the nuclear material is removed surgically.

Who is a candidate for this procedure?

It is appropriate for patients who have not responded to more conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, nonprescription medications, stretching, exercise, and relaxation techniques, and who would otherwise be facing surgery. Your APM physician can advise you as to whether or not you are a candidate.

Is the procedure painful?

It is only mildly uncomfortable. You may experience mild discomfort when your physician inserts the needle into the disc, but he or she will closely monitor you and provide medication if it is needed.

How soon will I know if the procedure was successful?

It can take up to four weeks before we know the outcome of the procedure. However, most individuals will notice a decrease in their leg symptoms within a few days.

Are there any special steps to take on the day of my procedure?

No solid food should be eaten, but small amounts of clear liquids are fine. You should arrange to have someone drive you to and from our office.

How long does the procedure take?

That depends on how much disc material must be removed. The procedure generally takes about an hour.

Is the procedure safe?

This procedure is generally safe, although any treatment carries the chance of complications. Extremely rare complications such as nerve injury, infection, and bleeding could occur.

How soon can I return to work?

Most patients are able to return to normal work activities in a few days to one week.