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Herniated discs are among the most common diseases in the area of the spine. Many sufferers continue to fear that they will be faced with immediate surgery if they make such a diagnosis. "But nowadays, depending on the form, there are various therapeutic options to choose from, which usually prevent major surgery," says Dr. Reinhard Schneiderhan, orthopedic surgeon from Munich and president of the German Spine League. This includes, for example, the so-called spinal catheter, through which the doctor injects an individually tailored medication mix directly into the affected area. Thanks to the further development of so-called epiduroscopy, there is now even the possibility of precisely recognizing bottlenecks and their causes using a small camera.
Enormous pressure acts on the spine every day. Like small shock absorbers, intervertebral discs between the vertebrae provide the necessary relief. In some cases, however, signs of wear, overloading or lack of movement cause the intervertebral discs to no longer perform their task. If the surrounding fiber ring breaks and the soft core comes out, experts speak of a herniated disc. Due to the pressure on surrounding nerves, those affected usually feel severe pain.
If it is no longer possible to achieve relief using conservative measures such as physiotherapy or injections, the decision is often made in favor of minimally invasive therapies such as the spinal catheter. "Compared to open surgeries, they put less strain on the body and thus enable faster freedom from symptoms and shorter regeneration times," emphasizes Dr. Schneiderhan.
If the decision is made in favor of the spinal catheter, the treating doctor guides an elastic, only 1.2 millimeter thin catheter to the painful area between the spinal cord and the spinal canal. If necessary, this procedure enables an extended, precise diagnosis: With a small camera at the top, the doctor gets a view of the anatomical structures of the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord. "This spinal cord mirroring - also called epiduroscopy - enables us to identify local inflammations, adhesions, scarring or nerve injuries and treat them in the same step," explains Dr. Schneiderhan.
Specially tailored to the individual situation, the expert provides pain and anti-inflammatory agents through the catheter. As a result, the intervertebral disc tissue that presses on the nerve shrinks and inflammation subsides. "For a lasting effect, we repeat this injection several times during the short inpatient stay," adds Dr. Schneiderhan. Usually, patients feel a significant relief after just a few days and return to their usual everyday life after a short time.