But rather than call time on his stellar career as a result of his upcoming absence, the 32-year-old believes the latest setback could actually see him play at the highest level for even longer.
"In a strange way a little break like this can give you the incentive to go on and play for longer than you anticipated," said O'Driscoll, who is contracted to the Irish Rugby Football Union until 2013, the same year that the Lions tour Australia.
"I certainly feel like I have plenty more to offer. This gives me the chance to go away, refocus and set more goals for the latter part of my career.
"I see myself coming back from this and playing for certainly another season. Who knows after that, let's see how the body feels."
Playing on for another season after his expected return in May 2012 would take O'Driscoll to the cusp of another Lions adventure and it would be hard to imagine him quitting the sport if a further tour was a possibility.
The Leinster centre and Ireland skipper has already won Lions Test caps in 2001, 2005 and 2009 but to bring an end to his time at the top just weeks before the Lions head back to Australia would be a major shock.
O'Driscoll is as yet unable to set a definitive return date but he is hoping to be back in action before the domestic and European season comes to a close.
"When the operation is done I'll be able to come back and get some quality rehab done and then set an exact date to return," added O'Driscoll.
"It's a trapped nerve starting from my neck and running down into my arm. I need the operation for general life, not just from a rugby point of view.
"The latter stages of the Heineken Cup is something to target. I'll know more about how I'm feeling and if I'm getting stronger in the weeks after the operation.
"I'll be able to set those targets better as time passes. I've been out for six months before and know how to cope with these things."