BACKGROUNDHerniated intervertebral discs can result in pain and neurological compromise. Treatment for this condition is categorized as surgical or non-surgical. We sought to identify trends in inpatient surgical management of herniated intervertebral discs using a national database.METHODSPatient discharges identified with a principal procedure relating to laminectomy for excision of herniated intervertebral disc were selected from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD), under the auspices of a data user agreement. These surgical patients did not undergo instrumented fusion. To account for the Nationwide Inpatient Sample weighting schema, design-adjusted analyses were used. The estimates of standard errors were calculated using SUDAAN software (Research Triangle International, NC, USA). This software is based on the International Classification of Diseases, 9(th) Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM); a uniform and standardized coding system.RESULTSUsing International Classification of Disease 9(th) Revision clinical modifier (ICD-9 CM) procedure code 80.51, we were able to identify disc excision, in part or whole, by laminotomy or hemilaminectomy. The incidence of laminectomy for the excision of herniated intervertebral disc has decreased dramatically from 1993 where 266,152 cases were reported [CI = 22,342]. In 2007, only 123,398 cases were identified [CI = 12,438]. The average length of stay in 1993 was 4 days [CI = 0.17], and in 2007 it decreased to just 2 days [CI = 0.17]. Both these comparisons were significantly different at P < 0.001. The average inflation adjusted (2007 buying power) charge of the procedure in 1993 was 14,790.87 USD [CI = 916.85]. This value rose in 2007 to 24,639 USD [CI = 1,485.51]. This difference was significant at P < 0.001.CONCLUSIONSNational estimates indicate that the incidence of inpatient laminectomy for the excision of herniated intervertebral disc has decreased significantly. This trend is multifactorial and is likely related to developments in outcomes research, the growing popularity of alternative procedures (intervertebral instrumented fusion), and transition to an ambulatory setting of surgical care.