Lumbar microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive form of discectomy surgery, whish is used to remove a damaged or herniated disc that is causing lower back pain and/or leg pain. To perform a lumbar microdiscectomy, our Denver spine surgeons use small, specialized surgical tools to perform the surgery through small incisions. This minimally invasive spine surgery helps patients recover quicker with less pain and return to normal activities and work faster. Typically, microdiscectomy is performed when only a portion of the damaged disc is removed. A discectomy also can be used to remove disc material that has lodged under the nerve root as well. By relieving pressure on the spinal nerve, a lumbar discectomy reduces or eliminate pain that is caused when a bulging or slipped disc presses on the spinal column or a nerve.
FAQs About Discectomy and Microdiscectomy for the Lower Back
Continue reading below to learn more about lumbar discectomy and microdiscectomy, or click on one of these links to go directly to the information that interests you.
Conditions We Treat
What conditions can a lumbar microdiscectomy treat?
Microdiscectomy surgery is most often used to treat damaged, or herniated, discs of the spine.
Discs are soft cushionlike structures that sit between each bone (vertebrae) in the spine. They act as shock absorbers and facilitate movement between the bones in your lower back. Each disc has a strong outer ring of fibers, and a soft jellylike central portion.
Wear and tear, called osteoarthritis, causes most herniated discs. Discs may also rupture as a result of sudden force or pressure. In addition, prolonged bending or heavy lifting may contribute to herniated discs.
How is microdiscectomy performed?
During microdiscectomy, one of our expert Denver spine surgeons makes a tiny, 1- to 1.5-inch incision in the back over the damaged disc. Special retractors and an operating microscope visually enlarge the surgical area, which allows the surgeon a clear view with minimal or no cutting of the adjacent muscle and soft tissue. After the retractor is in place, an X-ray is used to confirm that the appropriate disc is identified.
In some cases, a small portion of the inside facet joint is removed, both to facilitate access to the nerve root and to relieve any pressure or pinching on the nerve.
The surgeon uses micro instruments to go under the nerve root and remove the fragments of disc material that have extruded out of the disc.
The muscles are moved back into place, and the incision is closed. The procedure usually takes about one to two hours.
Most patients are able to go home the day of surgery.
If needed, the surgeon may make a small opening in the bony lamina, called a laminotomy, to access the site.
Who is a candidate for discectomy or microdiscectomy?
Surgery for a herniated disc generally is only considered when more conservative therapies such as steroid injections and physical therapy fail to provide adequate relief.
Ideal candidates for discectomy/microdiscectomy are those who experience:
- Leg pain caused by the damaged disc pressing on a nerve
- Numbness, weakness, or other symptoms in the leg and foot
- Back or buttock pain
- Bowel or bladder incontinence
In addition, at Neurosurgery One, our spine surgeons believe that surgery should be performed only when patients have a diagnosis of herniated disc that is confirmed through imaging such as MRI.
What are the benefits of microdiscectomy surgery?
Lumbar microdiscectomy is one of the most common surgeries performed to relieve back and leg pain, and it is considered highly effective, with 90-95 percent of patients experiencing pain relief. Most patients feel immediate improvement in their leg pain, some as soon as they wake up from surgery.
What are the risks of lumbar microdiscectomy surgery?
The risks associated with lumbar microdiscectomy are low, but they can include surgical site infection. However, the small incision used in microdiscectomy reduces the risk of infection.
An estimated 4 percent of microdiscectomy patients report a worsening of symptoms after surgery.
Every patient’s experience is unique. However, you may expect some or all of the following after microdiscectomy surgery:
- Most microdiscectomy patients go home the day of surgery or the following day.
- You may need help with bathing, dressing, and other activities in the first few days after surgery.
- Your spine surgeon will encourage you to gradually return to normal activities, including walking. Walking short distances at first and gradually increasing to one to two miles daily will help speed your recovery.
- You should expect to be fully recovered from surgery in four to six weeks.