The surgical approach for removal of a herniated disc depends upon the location of the disc material within the spinal canal. A ventral slot procedure is the most common surgical procedure for disc herniation in the cervical spine. The approach is from the underside (ventral) of the neck, where intervertebral discs are located. A small hole (slot) is drilled through the center of the disc and a small portion of the adjacent vertebrae. This allows access to the spinal canal at the location of the herniated disc. Small instruments are then used to remove any free fragments of disc material that have herniated or ruptured into the spinal canal.
When indicated surgical success with a ventral slot procedure is good, provided that the disc herniation is acute and that neurological function (pain sensation of the toes and normal ventilation) is adequate at the time of surgery. Potential complications include hemorrhage, post-operative infection, instability/subluxation and spinal cord trauma. Fusion is not typically done with routine disc herniations, as dogs do well without it and the disc space will partially fuse within a few months post operatively.
Recovery depends on the initial neurological status with return of ambulation within days to months. Strict rest/confinement is recommended for about 1 month post surgery with gradual increase in activity thereafter. During confinement a well-padded surface is recommended to prevent bed sores. Rehabilitation therapy can speed recovery.