Lumbar Microdiscectomy

Lumbar Microdiscectomy is a commonly performed, minimally-invasive procedure used to treat herniated spinal discs in the lower or lumbar region of the spine.  Also known as microdecompression, this procedure is very effective at relieving buttock and leg pain, or “sciatica”, and tingling or numbness which occurs when a spinal nerve is compressed.  This procedure is not used to treat back pain.

In layman’s  terms, a herniated spinal disc can be compared to a jelly doughnut that has been squished, causing some of the jelly to ooze out.  The oozing jelly is the herniation of the interior disc material, called the nucleus propulsis. This herniation can cause pain and dysfunction when it presses on the spinal nerves.

Lumbar Microdiscectomy is recommended for patients who have disc herniation in their lumbar spine who no longer respond or have not responded to conservative forms of treatment for their pain.  Conservative treatment options include: physical therapy, oral steroids or anti-inflammatory medications, epidural steroid injections, regenerative medicine (stem cell injections) or radio frequency neurotomy. It is not recommended for patients whose disc has dessicated or dried up, or whose disc has lost significant height (compression).  This indicates that the disc is not healthy and a spinal fusion may be the best treatment option.

Lumbar Microdiscectomy is almost always performed as outpatient surgery and is performed under general anesthesia, which means you will be totally unconscious and feel no pain. You will be positioned on the operating table lying face down.  A small incision will be made in the area of your back over the problematic disc.  Using small instruments, portions of the disc that are herniated and pressing on the spinal nerve, causing pain, will be removed.  If necessary, a small portion of bone in the vertebrae may also be removed.  Your incision is closed with sutures and you will be taken into the recovery room to wake up.

Depending upon your surgeon’s instructions, you may or may not be required to wear a back brace, have Home Health Nursing care or undergo Physical Therapy post-operatively. Some activities will be restricted while you recover, such as lifting and twisting, to allow for your surgical site to heal.  We recommend moving around and getting gentle exercise, such as walking, as soon as possible.  Walking is helpful during the recovery process and aids in healing.

Typical recovery time is about 4-6 weeks and varies, based on your overall condition and health before surgery. Your OSC Spine Surgeon will let you know when you can resume normal activities, such as work and driving.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks and complications can occur.  Although rare, they can include:

  • Damage to the nerve root
  • A tear to the dura (spinal cord covering) causing a leak of the cerebrospinal fluid (1-2%)
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • The disc herniates again (5%)
  • Incontinence of the bladder or bowel (extremely rare)

Lumbar Microdiscectomy is a very successful and safe procedure that provides pain relief in the vast majority of patients.  If you are troubled by unresolved leg and buttock pain, call for an appointment and we can decide if this procedure might be right for you.

In this video,  Dr. Jeffrey  Carlson talks about today’s innovative Spine Surgery, which is less traumatic for the patient (smaller incisions, minimal blood loss, less scarring, quicker recovery)  and almost always done on an Outpatient basis.

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