Lumbar Microdiscectomy

Back Surgery Information

Lumbar Microdiscectomy

If your back pain has become impossible to deal with, an alternative solution to traditional discectomy surgery could be the answer to your herniated disc back pain. This alternative solution is a minimally invasive procedure called lumbar microdiscectomy.

If your disc pain does not respond to rest, anti-inflammatory medications, or epidural injections, a surgical technique called a discectomy could be an option for treating your condition. In a discectomy, the part of the herniated disc that is pinching or putting pressure on spinal nerve roots will be removed.

With conventional discectomy, an incision is made in the center of your back at the same level as the herniated disc. Then the surgeon strips the muscles of your back away from the bones of the spinal column so that the area becomes visible where the disc is herniated. After removing the herniated disc, the doctor puts the muscles back in place and the incision is closed.

In a lumbar microdiscectomy procedure your doctor will utilize a special type of muscle-spreading instrument that reduces muscle damage. This allows herniated fragments to be removed safely while protecting the nerve roots and spinal cord. You should experience much less post-surgery pain with this procedure than with traditional disc surgery. In addition, the length of your recovery and rehabilitation may be shorter.

Usually a lumber microdiscectomy is performed on an outpatient basis with no overnight stay in the hospital. However, your physician’s policy might include one night’s hospitalization following your surgery. Post-operatively, patients may be able to return to a normal level of daily activity very quickly.

Following your surgery, an exercise program of stretching, strengthening, and aerobic conditioning is recommended to help prevent recurrence of back pain or disc herniation.

Be sure you clearly understand your surgeon’s post-operative instructions after a lumbar microdiscectomy, as physicians may have differing views on this subject. Some spine surgeons restrict a patient from bending, lifting, or twisting for the first six weeks following surgery. However, since your spine is mechanically the same, it is also reasonable to return to a normal level of activity immediately following this procedure.

The success rate for microdiscectomy spine surgery is approximately 90% to 95%, although 5% to 10% of patients will develop another herniated disc at some time in the future.

It is possible for a recurrent disc herniation to take place shortly after back surgery or many years later, although another herniation is most common in the first three months following surgery. If the disc does herniate again, usually a revision microdiscectomy will be just as successful as the first procedure. However, after a recurrence, you will have a 15% to 20% higher risk of further recurrences.

Many spine surgeons agree that repeated herniated discs are not thought to be directly related to a patient's activity level, but probably have more to do with the fact that within some disc spaces there are multiple fragments of disc that can come out at a later date.

As in any surgery, the possibility of risks exists with a lumbar microdiscectomy. Your surgeon should thoroughly explain all potential risks prior to surgery. However, reports indicate that serious risks are extremely rare with this procedure. When investigating surgery options for your herniated disc, you may find that a microdiscectomy is appropriate for you.