A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to remove herniated disc material that is causing pain in the lower back and legs (lumbar), mid back (thoracic), or neck and arms (cervical). Herniated discs, often caused by injury or trauma to the spine, result in pain, numbness and weakness in the extremities. When a disc “ruptures” or is pushed out of place, it can become lodged against spinal nerves, putting pressure on the nerves. This compression of the nerves can significantly impact your quality of life.
A discectomy removes an injured or herniated disc from the spine. This is not generally the first line of treatment for spinal pain, but it is helpful in cases where the patient is suffering from constant and severe pain and numbness after exhausting medications, therapy, and steroid injections of the spine. The procedure, also called decompression, relieves the pressure put on adjacent nerves by removing portions of the bone or herniated discs pressing on the spine.
Patients undergoing minimally invasive microdiscectomy to treat disc herniation typically return home the same day they have surgery, as the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. A microdiscectomy is performed using general anesthesia. Typically, the surgeon reaches the damaged disc from the back (posterior) of the spine. The surgery can be performed in an open or minimally invasive technique. Depending on your case, one disc (single-level) or more (multi-level) may be removed.
A variety of surgical tools and techniques can be used to perform a discectomy. An “open” technique uses a large skin incision and muscle retraction so that the surgeon can directly view the area. A “minimally invasive” technique, called a micro or endoscopic discectomy, uses a small skin incision. A series of progressively larger tubes, called dilators, are used to tunnel through the muscles. Special instruments help the surgeon see and operate in a smaller space. Microscopic discectomy surgery involves the use of a microscope to improve surgical lighting and vision, making the surgery more precise. Specially designed surgical instruments are then used during microscopic discectomy to remove bone spurs and the lamina on the side of the approach. This is referred to as a laminectomy. The disc is then exposed by gently retracting the nerves. The fragments of herniated disc are then dissected free and carefully removed. Micro discectomy is the least invasive and effective surgical technique for treating spinal disc herniation patients. With microsurgery, larger incisions are avoided. The procedure does not traumatize your spine like traditional spine surgeries do. The whole procedure for a disc herniation approximates 40 minutes to an hour and a half.
Patients typically begin walking immediately after surgery. Patients should not engage in too much physical activity for the first 2-3 days after back surgery to prevent muscle spasms. Many people take little to no pain medication by their two-week post-op visit. Patients often return to sedentary work within two weeks after the operation. In some cases, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy to help strengthen the back and supporting muscles. You may have to limit certain physical activities for a couple of weeks, but most patients are fully recovered within two to eight weeks.