Lumbar Microdiscectomy

This page will provide you with information about having a lumbar microdiscectomy. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

What is a lumbar microdiscectomy?

Lumbar microsurgery is a minimally invasive procedure which decompresses nerves in the lumbar spine. It is a technique which is used to treat a number of back conditions, including:

  • A herniated disc
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis (the forward displacement of a disc)

Lumbar microsurgery can be a very effective treatment and is an alternative to the more traditional and invasive technique known as a laminectomy. Lumbar microsurgery is different in that it is only the damaged material that is removed, leaving the rest of the disc in place so the spinal cord is able to return to its normal position immediately after the procedure. This is due to the microscope used, which allows the surgeon to see the damaged disc in detail without needing to cut away large areas of muscle or soft tissue.

Lumbar microsurgery is very effective at relieving pain – particularly weakness or numbness in the lower back – and leg pain (known as sciatica) caused by a herniated disc (often referred to as a slipped disk). The disc itself does not move, instead the jelly-like material inside the disc pushes through the outer layer of cartilage and puts pressure on spinal nerves.

What will happen during the procedure?

In lumbar microsurgery a small incision is made in the bone directly above the herniated disc and the spinal cord is moved aside while the damaged material is removed. The disc is left intact and the pressure is relieved.

The time needed to perform lumbar microsurgery can differ but is normally around an hour. In addition, as the incision for the procedure is so small scarring is normally minimal. After the procedure recovery is normally quite rapid. Prior to the procedure many patients experience severe pain which limits their ability to live active lives. Although some pain is normally expected post-operation, along with some muscle spasms, most patients report considerable improvement in symptoms.

Risks and complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.

This page should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you and is intended for informational purposes only.