USING THIS GUIDE WHAT’S COVERED
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.
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.
In addition to a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic spinal surgeon, it also involves:
- an assistant surgeon
- an anaesthetist
- a radiographer (for X-rays)
- a physiotherapist
- an occupational therapist.
CONSIDERING THE PROCEDURE
Alternatives to microdiscectomy
There are alternatives to microdiscectomy in some cases.
Types of microdiscectomy
There are some variations in the way the surgery is performed.
Results vs risks of the procedure
The benefits and risks of microdiscectomy.
Choosing a specialist
How to find a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
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