Lumbar Microdiscectomy

What is a Lumbar Microdiscectomy?

A lumbar microdiscectomy is a procedure to remove a "herniated disc" that may be pressing on spinal nerves and causing pain or other symptoms.

Dr. Bjerke uses a minimally invasive method to perform the discectomy, sometimes referred to as an "endoscopic microdiscectomy." X-rays are used to locate the exact spot of the herniated disc that was located on MRI or CT scan.

A small incision is made on one side of the spine, and a series of dilating tubes are placed over one another to gently push the back muscles aside. There is no cutting or cauterizing muscle to reach the disc which may lead to increased back pain after surgery. Once the dilating tubes are in place and confirmed by x-ray, a small hole or "laminotomy" is made in one of the vertebrae to allow the surgeon to access the spinal roots and intervertebral disc.

Any disc that has ruptured through the disc wall, also called "herniated" or "sequestered," is removed using special instruments. If necessary, any remaining loose fragments are removed from the center of the disc, or "nucleus pulposus."

Using a minimally invasive approach, nearly all patients who undergo this procedure are allowed to go home the same day. Sensory symptoms such as leg pain are usually relieved right away. Nerve damage resulting in numbness or weakness in the leg is less predictable, but most patients can expect some gradual recovery of function and many will experience a full recovery.

On rare occasions, additional pieces of disc will "re-herniate" and cause more symptoms. This occurs in about 5% of cases, and may require an additional operation. For this reason, Dr. Bjerke asks his patient to limit activity and lifting for six weeks following surgery.