A microdiscectomy, also known as microdecompression, laminotomy, diskectomy, or decompression, is a type of minimally invasive spine surgery that is typically performed to treat patients with a herniated lumbar disc. During the procedure, a small part of the bone is removed to allow for your surgeon to remove a herniated disk pinching the nerve root.  By relieving the compression, the nerve is allowed to heal.

Indications for Microdiscectomy:

The primary indications for a microdiscectomy include:

  1. Lumbar Disc Herniation: Microdiscectomy is most commonly performed for lumbar disc herniation that has not responded to conservative treatment measures (like physical therapy and medication), and is causing significant pain, weakness, or numbness in the lower extremities.
  2. Sciatica: The surgery is often used for treating sciatica (pain along the sciatic nerve, radiating from the lower back down one or both legs) resulting from a herniated disc.
  3. Neurological Symptoms: If there are significant neurological symptoms like severe leg pain, numbness, weakness, or loss of function, or if the disc herniation is affecting bowel or bladder control, then surgery is indicated, sometimes emergently depending on the situation.

It’s important to note that microdiscectomy is typically recommended only after non-surgical treatments have not led to improvement after a reasonable period, usually 6 to 12 weeks, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Advantages of Microdiscectomy:

There are several potential benefits to microdiscectomy as compared to more traditional, open surgeries:

  1. Less Invasive: Because the procedure uses smaller incisions and causes less damage to the surrounding tissues, it is generally less invasive than open procedures.
  2. Reduced Recovery Time: Patients often experience shorter hospital stays and recovery times. Many patients are discharged the same day of the surgery, and most can return to normal activities within a few weeks.
  3. Reduced Postoperative Pain: Microdiscectomy is generally associated with less postoperative pain, due in part to the reduced damage to surrounding tissues.
  4. Good Success Rate: Microdiscectomy has a high success rate in relieving leg pain (sciatica) caused by a herniated disc.

As with all surgical procedures, it’s important to discuss the potential risks and benefits with a qualified surgeon. It’s also important to note that while microdiscectomy can be very effective in relieving sciatica or nerve root pain, it is not an option for all patients.  Some patients with spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae), or other/combination of these diagnoses may require a different surgical approach (though likely still minimally invasive).  At Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine our interdisciplinary team of board certified spine specialists can evaluate you to see which approach is right for your specific condition.

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