Surgery performed to remove part of a herniated disc. This differs from discectomy because it uses a smaller incision and removes less disc material.

What is a Microdiscectomy?

  • Treats pain from a variety of spinal conditions that have failed to relieve after attempting conservative treatments.
  • Decompresses pinched spinal nerves and/or spinal cord. Removes part of the lamina and the herniated disc material around and under the spinal nerves to release pressure.
  • Procedure is minimally-invasive.

Microdiscectomy is a procedure that relieves the compression put on the spinal cord or one or more spinal nerve roots. The minimally-invasive procedure involves using a much smaller incision than open-back procedures, and removes the disc material that is pushing against the nerve roots by way of a small tunnel and tiny instruments.

This procedure may help reduce or eliminate chronic pain caused by a herniated disc, which is one of the most common spinal conditions among patients. Through aging, trauma, injuries, or wear and tear, the soft inner disc material between a set of vertebrae may seep or bulge out of the tougher disc exterior. Pain is experienced once disc material pushes against the spinal nerve roots and/or spinal cord. This may happen in any area of the spine.

Chronic pain may be debilitating and lower a patient's quality of life. Some symptoms that microdiscectomy may help lessen or relieve include: extreme or mild chronic pain that is either sharp, dull, throbbing, or radiating, loss of motor functions in the legs and feet, difficulty walking, sitting , or standing for long periods of time, weakness or numbness in the lower extremities, and sciatica pain that radiates down the legs.

A herniated or bulging disc may occur from degenerative disc disease, but is one of the most common back and neck ailments. Many patients fear over getting a back procedure. With minimally-invasive microdiscectomy, the smaller incision and less invasive approach means there is lesser trauma to the area and a shorter recovery time.

For patients who require a larger removal of their vertebral disc, a discectomy may be recommended instead.

What does it treat?

Who are good candidates?

Microdiscectomy primarily relives pain caused by a herniated or bulging disc. Ideal candidates should have back or neck pain for at least 3 months and should experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic or acute pain in the back or neck that is dull, deep, shooting, throbbing, sharp, or radiating
  • Sciatica pain that radiates from the back down to the buttocks, thighs, calves, feet, or toes
  • Weak or numbed muscles in the lower extremities
  • Trouble standing, walking, or sitting for long periods of time due to stiffness or pain
  • Multiple attempts at conservative non-procedural treatments that were unsuccessful in alleviating the pain or healing of the herniated disc

Additionally, ideal candidates should be aware of any physical rehabilitation that may be necessary as part of recovery, and should be optimistic towards pain improvement and pain management.

What is the procedure like?

The procedure takes about 1 to 2 hours to complete, and will be carried out by your orthopedic spinal surgeon or neurosurgeon. The patient will be under local or general anesthesia during the procedure.

The following are the general steps of the microdiscectomy procedure:

  1. The procedure begins by prepping the area of the back over the affected disc. A small one-half to 1 inch incision is then made on the back.
  2. Dilators are placed in the incision to carefully spread the muscles and tissues apart. Then, a tube-shaped retractor that is one-inch in diameter is placed and attached with a clamp to secure it while operating.
  3. A microscope is used to see inside the tube. A small amount of lamina (bone covering the nerves and disc material) and ligament between the vertebrae is removed to access the disc.
  4. The affected disc material is then removed, and the nerves are now relaxed.
  5. Once finished, the surgeon removes the tube and then closes the incision with sutures.