What Is Microdiscectomy?

A lumbar microdiscectomy, also known as microdecompression, is a minimally invasive spinal surgery performed to provide nerve decompression associated with a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease. This procedure can be used to:

  • Remove a part of the disc that is bulging and pressing on the nerve.
  • Remove fragments of the disc that have broken away from the disc causing compression on the nerves.

After being given general anesthesia, you are positioned face down on the surgery table. The back is cleaned and prepped using antiseptic solutions, and a 2-centimeter incision is made over the affected lumbar disc region. The surgeon locates the correct disc and vertebrae using fluoroscopy, which is a type of x-ray guidance. A series of graduated dilators are inserted, separating the muscles. The tubular device is left in place, so the surgeon has access to the spine.

The surgeon removes a small portion of the lamina (posterior region of a vertebra or spinal bone), and uses a laser or surgical tool to remove the herniated disc material. Using irrigation and suctioning techniques, any debris is removed from the spinal canal. After all surgical processes are complete, the tube is removed, and the incision is closed using sutures.

Microdiscectomy Recovery

At Inspired Spine, most patients are up and walking within 24 hours of a microdiscectomy, and home the next day.

When following treatment protocol, most patients are back to work in 2 weeks or less; and back to regular daily activity a few weeks after surgery.

Following a microdiscectomy at Inspired Spine, you are monitored in the recovery room for 1 to 2 hours. Once you are alert, awake, and stable, you are moved to a hospital room for one overnight stay. The physical therapist will work with you on getting in and out of bed and using a walking assistive device. After going home, you continue to meet with the therapist to improve strength and flexibility.

Microdiscectomy Success Rates

Overall, 85% of people said they were very satisfied with their surgery. In a recent prospective study, researchers evaluated surgical outcomes of lumbar microdiscectomy in young, active patients. All patients had single-level lumbar microdiscectomies and were followed for 3 years. At the final follow-up, researchers found that the procedure had an 84% success rate, with most patients returning to unrestricted military duty. In addition, 80% of patients had a significant decrease in pain.

When Do You Need a Microdiscectomy?

In most cases, a herniated disc will heal after conservative treatments. Approximately 10% of patients with a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease should be considered for a microdiscectomy, only when conservative treatments prove ineffective.

After reviewing your body's response to conservative treatments for a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or a degenerative disc, your patient care coordinator and the spinal surgeons at Inspired Spine will use an MRI, CT, or myelogram diagnostic analysis and determine the extent of your pain levels. This will include learning your specific levels of the following:

  • Significant pain, weakness, or numbness in your leg or foot
  • Advanced sciatica pain in your leg(s)
  • Loss of strength in your leg(s)
  • Numbness in the genital area
  • Reduction or loss of bladder or bowel control

You make the final decision when it comes to spinal surgery, yet our spinal surgeons will make the recommendation of microdiscectomy – only if it's absolutely necessary.