(This is the section that explains the detail of the operation or procedure above and should be read in conjunction with the section Your Neck Operation).
A cervical Nucleoplasty is performed for pain that is caused by damaged intervertebral discs. The aim of the procedure is to reduce pressure on the small nerves that are found in the annulus fibrosus. This is done by shrinking the nucleus pulposus (see the section Anatomy of the Spine). The modality used for this is similar to radiofrequency rhizotomies, but a device is used which utilises coblation technology to dissolve tissue without damage to nearby normal structures.
The reason why your specialist performs this procedure and not a more invasive operation is because he or she is trying to be as conservative as possible in treating your condition. The aim is to treat your symptoms without resorting to a more invasive operation.
When undergoing this procedure, you will be lying on your back on bolsters or pillows. Your specialist will use an X-ray machine to guide the needle that is used to do the procedure with. A patented plasma device is then inserted through the needle into the disc, whereby excess tissue is removed. Removing some of the tissue from the centre of the disc causes a reduction in intra-discal pressure, which in turn eases symptoms.
Image used with permission from ArthroCare
This illustration demonstrates coblation therapy that is used in Nucleoplasty to “dissolve” tissue. This technology allows tissue to be removed without damaging nearby sensitive tissue.
You may sometimes have a bit of discomfort directly after the procedure, but this will clear up very soon. You will be allowed to move around freely after your procedure.
This procedure is usually performed as a day procedure, although in some cases patients might need to stay in hospital overnight.
It is incredibly important to get a lot of rest and exercise following your procedure. It is frequently useful to supplement your treatment with physiotherapy and local treatment such as massage therapy and chiropractic treatment.
Routinely you will receive a date for your follow-up appointment with your specialist. This may vary from anything between two and six weeks, but you will be seen earlier if there are any complications.
It is important to realise that you will have to protect your neck the rest of your life and apply good neck habits. It is important to appreciate that the efficacy and longevity of this treatment is still under investigation.