Microdiscectomy, also known as microdecompression, is one of the most common minimally invasive spine surgery procedures. The main goal of microdiscectomy is to take pressure off your nerves to relieve your back pain.
A discectomy, also referred to as decompression surgery, relieves pressure on spinal nerves (and its resulting pain) by removing portions of spinal bone or disks. Traditionally, discectomies are performed as “open surgeries” that require large incisions to allow surgeons to properly view and access the areas on which the operations occur.
Microdiscectomy also relieves pressure on spinal nerves. However, unlike discectomy, microdiscetomy is a minimally-invasive procedure. Because it uses special tools, the procedure only requires a small incision. As a result, microdiscectomy can cause less damage to muscle and tissue, be less painful, and result in a faster recovery after surgery.
During a typical microdiscectomy, a small (1-1.5 inch) incision is made in the center of the back. The back muscles are lifted off the spine, and a membrane covering nerve roots is removed. Often, a small portion of the facet joint (the joint that connects one vertebra of the spine to another) is also removed. The nerve root is then moved to the side, and portions of disc material causing pressure on the spinal nerves are removed.
Many patients have significant pain relief after microdiscectomy, and compared to discectomy, recovery is often faster.
Immediately after surgery, most patients will require medication (e.g., non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, or sometimes a mild narcotic) to help manage post-operative pain.
Because pre-operative pain has typically caused patients to limit their motion, return to motion and activity is important. Physical therapy is beneficial for most patients – initiated with gentle stretching to minimize scar tissue and progressing to back strengthening. A post-operative walking program can also provide benefit.
Full return to normal activities or work will vary, and be based on how quickly the patient feels better as well as the nature of the activity.
You may have heard about a microdiscectomy before and are wondering whether or not it is the right treatment for you. Contact the spine care experts at the Florida Spine Institute to determine whether this procedure can eliminate your pain.
Khanna AJ. Microdiscectomy surgical procedure. American Acacemy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2014). Available at: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/khanna/microdiscectomy2.htm. Last accessed December 26, 2014.
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (2012). Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00543. Last accessed December 26, 2014.