Micro discectomysurgery


Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about microdiscectomy. Learn how it’s done, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how the surgery’s performed, view our animation below.

Before deciding on microdiscectomy, be sure to check out other back pain treatments first.

The Basics

What's microdiscectomy surgery?

This minimally-invasive surgery removes part of an intervertebral disc to reduce pressure on your spinal cord or spinal nerves. 

Your spinal cord is a soft bundle of nerves that runs the length of your spine. It carries signals between your brain and your body. Intervertebral discs sit between the bones of your spine. They’re filled with a squashy material that acts as a shock absorber between the bones. Sometimes, due to injury, ageing or a spinal deformity, material from one of the discs herniates (slips or bulges out) and puts pressure your spinal cord. The problem normally affects the lower (lumbar) spine or the neck (cervical spine).

People with this problem often complain of painful spasms as their body attempts to re-stabilise the spine. They often experience low-grade pain between flare-ups. A damaged disc in the neck can also cause neck pain, nerve pain or spinal cord compression, leading to severe disability. A lumbar herniated disc can cause buttock pain and sciatica (pain radiating down the back of your leg). Some people also experience loss of bladder or bowel control.

How's a microdiscectomy done?

During the procedure, your surgeon makes a small incision in your lower back (for a herniated disc in your lumbar spine) or back of your neck (for a herniated disc in your cervical spine), then removes the part of the disc that is herniated. The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic.

Where's it done?

Microdiscectomy is done in a hospital or day clinic. It’s usually done as a same day procedure but you may need an overnight hospital stay.

How long does it take?

The surgery usually takes 1–2 hours.

Who's involved?

In addition to a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic spinal surgeon, it also involves:

  • an assistant surgeon
  • an anaesthetist
  • nurses
  • a radiographer (for X-rays)
  • a physiotherapist
  • an occupational therapist.

Learn about Anterior Cervical Discectomy

Watch how anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is done.

Learn about microdiscectomy

Watch how microdiscectomy surgery is done.

The details


Alternatives to microdiscectomy

There are alternatives to microdiscectomy in some cases.
Learn more

Types of microdiscectomy

There are some variations in the way the surgery is performed.
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Results vs risks of the procedure

The benefits and risks of microdiscectomy.
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Choosing a specialist

How to find a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
Learn more


Questions for your specialist

What you should ask before going ahead with microdiscectomy.
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Preparing for your procedure

Pre-operative tests and preparation prior to microdiscectomy.
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Your anaesthetic options

About the options for anaesthetic and post-op pain relief.
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Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your surgery.
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Your procedure

What happens in the operating theatre
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After your procedure

Your hospital stay.
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Resuming activities and watching for problems.
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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.