results vsrisks

Microdiscectomy is the most frequently performed back surgery.


Microdiscectomy is a less invasive procedure compared to other back surgeries and it’s frequently performed as a same-day procedure with no overnight hospital stay. The discomfort is likely to be less and your recovery period shorter compared to more invasive procedures like spinal fusion or disc replacement.

If your main problem is radiating pain (sciatica, tingling, weakness and/or numbness of your arms or legs) then microdiscectomy may be a good option.

One study with 212 participants reported successful relief of leg pain in 80% of people and back pain relief in 77% of people. Seventy-six per cent were satisfied with the results of their surgery, 65% of people were able to return to their normal daily activities and 61% who'd worked beforehand, returned to work.

Unfortunately, between 7–10% of people who have a microdiscectomy experience no improvement or get worse. If you’ve had the problem for a long time, you’re more likely to have a poor result. It’s important to talk to your surgeon about the results you can expect given your individual circumstances.


As with any medical procedure, there are some potential risks. The chance of complications occurring depends on the exact type of procedure you’re having and other factors including your general health.

The main risks with microdiscectomy surgery are:

  • nerve injury leading to weakness or numbness
  • tear of the dura (the protective sheath around the spinal nerves), which can cause a leak of spinal fluid
  • infection
  • post-operative bleeding
  • blood clots (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism)
  • pneumonia.

Long-term complications include:                                 

  • lack of pain relief (or worsening of symptoms)
  • continued numbness down your leg
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • nerve pain
  • failure of the surgery, which may require further surgery or a different type of surgery such as (spinal fusion) or disc replacement.

Ask your surgeon about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about their own rates of patient satisfaction and the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.

Choosing a specialist

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


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.