Microdiscectomy is one of the most common procedures performed by spine surgeons in the United States each year.
This minimally invasive surgery removes disc herniation that may be pressing on the spinal cord and nerve roots in either the cervical (neck) or lumbar (low back) spine, and causing pain.
Microdiscectomy is typically used to treat: disc herniation, disc bulges
What Happens During Microdiscectomy
Microdiscectomy gets its name from the fact that it is typically performed with a small incision and the use of a microscope.
During the procedure, you will be put under a general anesthetic.
You will then be placed face down on a specialized surgical bed.
The surgeon will identify the problem disc using X-ray or fluoroscopy guidance.
Once the disc herniation level is identified, the surgeon will make a very small incision on the back and carefully dissect muscle to gain access to the spine.
The surgeon will then remove a small amount of bone in order to gain access to the spinal canal.
Ligamentum flavum is carefully dissected away to expose the spinal cord and exiting nerve roots.
The spinal cord and/or nerve roots are then gently pulled back off to the side and the herniated portion of the disc that is compressing against the spinal cord and/or nerve roots is removed.
How Microdiscectomy Works
Microdiscectomy works by both direct and indirect decompression of the nerve roots.
During the surgery, as the bone is drilled away and ligaments are removed, the spinal cord and nerve roots are allowed to drift away from the herniation as they have more room.
The second way that the procedure works is to remove the specific herniated part of the disc that's compressing against the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Both of these maneuvers allow the nerve root to be free of compression and typically lead to pain relief.
Benefits of Microdiscectomy
Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive option that allows for less muscle disruption.
This results in shorter operative times, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery.
Because it does not involve a fusion, there is no loss of flexibility or range of motion.
Using microscopes, your surgeon can directly visualize your nerve root and ensure the offending agents are removed.
Compared to traditional discectomy, infections are less likely as well.
Recovering From Microdiscectomy
Recovery and prognosis from microdiscectomy is excellent.
Most of the time, it is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you will return home the same day as the surgery.
Many patients notice that leg and arm symptoms are significantly improved quickly after surgery.
Some patients experience low back pain for the first few days of recovery, however this will go away after two to three days.
Your surgeon may refer you to physical therapy about 1 month after surgery to work on improving range of motion, strength, flexibility, and strengthening your carriage.
Before then, you are advised to avoid lifting heavy objects, bending, sitting for extended periods of time, or twisting.
Most patients will make a full recovery within two months of surgery.