A microdiscectomy, also known as microdecompression spine surgery, is a surgical procedure that removes part of an impinged intervertebral disc in order to relieve pain, weakness, and numbness throughout the body. It is usually reserved for patients with severe symptoms that do not respond to more conservative treatments and significantly affect the patient’s quality of life.
The microdiscectomy procedure is most effective in relieving lower back and leg pain caused by lumbar disc herniation, although it may be performed in the cervical and thoracic spine as well. A herniated disc is a common condition that occurs as a result of gradual wear and tear or an injury to the intervertebral discs, causing it to bulge and break open. Patients with this condition often experience pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected area, as well as through the legs or arms, depending on the location of the disc.
Indications for Microdiscectomy
Symptoms caused by a disc herniation often improve through conservative treatments or on its own. However, patients experiencing leg pain and numbness for more than six weeks may benefit from surgery. Surgery may also be recommended for severe pain that interferes with a patient’s ability to function normally. It is important for patients to be healthy enough to undergo major surgery and a rehabilitation program, as well as to have realistic expectations for the outcome of this procedure.
While surgery is not needed in all cases, microdiscectomy is considered a highly effective option that can relieve pain quickly. Your doctor will determine whether or not this procedure is right for you after a thorough evaluation of your condition.
During the microdiscectomy procedure, an incision is made in the back at the location of the affected disc, and the muscles are lifted away to access the spine. Small surgical instruments and a microscope are inserted into this incision to repair the affected disc using minimally invasive techniques. Once the targeted nerve root is identified, the disc is removed from under the root, and a small portion of the facet joint may be removed as well to relieve pressure on the nerve.
The muscles are then placed back in their original position and the incision closed with sutures. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. A short hospital stay is often required after surgery.
Who is an Ideal Candidate for a Microdiscectomy?
The microdiscectomy procedure is preferred by many patients. That doesn't mean it is appropriate for every case in which a herniated disc is causing pain. At Texas Neurosurgery, our doctors are thorough in understanding your symptoms, your medical history, your lifestyle, and in reviewing the various factors that could affect your surgical outcome. Our goal is to achieve the best results because this means you are more comfortable in your daily life.
What Are the Benefits of Undergoing a Microdiscectomy over other Surgical Procedures?
Studies suggest that a large percentage of the patients who undergo microdiscectomy procedures achieve very good long-term results. The primary benefit of this surgical approach is that it is minimally-invasive so it typically incurs subtler side effects and a shorter recovery period. During your consultation for treatment, your doctor can discuss the details of the procedure, their anticipated outcome, and what you can expect after surgery.
How Should I Prepare for My Microdiscectomy Procedure?
Once you are scheduled for your microdiscectomy, you can expect to receive detailed pre-surgical instructions. Please inform your doctor regarding all medications and supplements you are currently taking. You may need to start taking certain prescriptions and stop taking other products. It is important that you follow instructions regarding medications; they are given to reduce your intra-operative and post-operative risk of bleeding and bruising. Your pre-op instructions will include information regarding what to wear to the surgery center, what to bring with you, and when to stop eating and drinking before surgery.
How Long Does the Microdiscectomy Procedure Take?
Your microdiscectomy may take one to two hours. However, you can expect to be at the surgery center for three or more hours. You will need to arrive early to get checked in and prepared for anesthesia. After the procedure, you may be in a monitored recovery area for up to a few hours to regain alertness and stability to stand and walk with little assistance. The staff at the surgical center will notify your contact person when you are ready to be released to go home.
What is Recovery Like After a Microdiscectomy?
The microdiscectomy procedure is advantageous because you are expected to recover more quickly than you would after a more invasive spinal procedure. That said, you mustn't overdo it. After surgery, rest is best. You will walk several times a day, but this may only be around the house for some time. You will rely on prescription pain medication for a week or two, and this can make you groggy and somewhat unstable on your feet. At first, you may need to have someone next to you when you stand and move around to lend a hand if needed.
You can expect to see the signs of healing begin two to four weeks after your procedure. From there, you will gradually increase your scope and level of physical activity. You may return to light work after a few weeks but will need to take your time in the speed at which you resume more strenuous physical activity and exercise as you gain greater flexibility and comfort. Soon after your procedure, you may begin a prescribed program of physical therapy. This will help you strengthen the muscles that support your core and spine and also increase your range of motion.
Are There Any Risks Associated with a Microdiscectomy?
Microdiscectomy spinal surgery has a high rate of success. Over 80 percent of patients achieve satisfying degrees of improvement after their procedures. That said, all surgery carries some risk. With the microdiscectomy, these include:
- Root nerve damage
- Persistent pain
- Deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the leg, after surgery
Microdiscectomy complications such as these are uncommon. Your doctor is happy to discuss how they perform the procedure in a way that keeps risks to a minimum.