Lumbar Microdiscetomy

Microdiscectomy is one of the most routinely performed operations at The UK Spine Centre and lends itself to keyhole surgery.

Microdiscectomy differs from an old fashioned ‘discectomy’ (seen elsewhere) which typically involves making a bigger incision ‘to let the light in!’

The aim of the procedure is to remove the loose fragment/s of disc which are pinching the nerve root and causing leg pain (sciatica).

We preserve the remaining healthy intact disc because this is a useful cushion or shock absorber in your back.

Procedure

We are well equipped with powerful lights and strong magnification to enable us to perform keyhole surgery. This minimises damage to the surrounding tissues, reduces pain, and speeds recovery.

The operation involves a 2-3 cm vertical skin incision on the back.

We gently separate the back muscles to reach the spine. A small window is made through the ligament and bone to access the spinal canal.

We identify the disc herniation under the nerve root and then remove the fragment of disc along with any other loose fragments.

Success

Microdiscectomy at The UK Spine Centre is very successful with a 90% chance that your sciatica will be better, usually immediately. Back pain may be less predictable and depends on the overall condition of your back more generally.

Pins and needles and numbness may take weeks or longer to improve following surgery depending on bruising and damage to the nerve from compression.

Risks

About 5-10% of patients will continue to have some symptoms despite a technically successful operation to free up the nerve. This may reflect on going swelling and irritability of the nerve from being compressed.

In our experience there is a 1% chance of complications including nerve injury, spinal fluid leak, infection, bleeding and blood clots. These problems can usually be managed simply. Thankfully severe neurological injury is exceedingly rare.

A recurrent disc herniation occurs in about 7% of individuals. This is simply ‘bad luck’ but symptoms may still settle without the need for further treatment.

Recovery

Keyhole surgery is a big advantage for our patients and means you will be up and about within a few hours of surgery and able to go home on the same day.

Simple painkillers may be useful in the first week after surgery which we will provide.

We encourage an early program of rehabilitation from two weeks post surgery which really helps reduce any stiffness in your back and speeds healing and recovery.

You can return to work from 2 weeks post surgery (in a non-manual role) or when you feel ready.

In our experience there is a good chance you will be back to playing all sports and activities within a few months.

Our team will support you before and after surgery and your specialist remains available to you at any time.

Further Reading

Please see our Patient Stories which describe real patients, their problems, diagnosis and successful treatment under our care at The UK Spine Centre.

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