What is Microdiscectomy?

Microdiscectomy (short for microendoscopic discectomy) is a highly effective yet minimally invasive procedure used to address various disc-related causes of pain in the back, legs, arms, and shoulders. It involves the use of an endoscope, a slender and flexible instrument equipped with a light and camera at one end. This ingenious tool allows surgeons to access the affected area through small, precise incisions.

What is the Difference Between a Discectomy and a Microdiscectomy?

Both discectomy and microdiscectomy approaches aim to alleviate pain and discomfort arising from disc problems, but they differ significantly in terms of invasiveness.

While also minimally invasive, traditional lumbar discectomy procedures involve a more extensive surgical approach and larger incisions to access the affected area. Consequently, they typically result in longer recovery periods.

In contrast, the smaller incision size of a microdiscectomy minimizes tissue disruption, reduces postoperative pain, and promotes quicker recovery.

The advantages of microdiscectomy are numerous:

  • Smaller incisions result in accelerated healing and recovery times.
  • The risk of complications compared to traditional “open” discectomy surgeries requiring larger incisions is significantly reduced.
  • Microdiscectomy is not limited to a specific region of the spine; it can be performed on discs in the lumbar (low back), thoracic (mid back), and cervical (neck) regions, making it a versatile solution for a wide range of spinal issues.

Is Microdiscectomy Right for Me?

Why is a microdiscectomy performed?

Microdiscectomy is typically recommended for individuals suffering from herniated, extruded, or degenerated discs that cause substantial symptoms, including:
  • Radiating pain in the arms and legs
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Persistent aching sensations
Herniated or extruded discs can compress nerves or induce inflammation, while degenerated discs may lead to localized instability and nerve irritation.

Am I a Candidate for a Microdiscectomy?

Patients who undergo microdiscectomy have often exhausted conservative treatments like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications without finding relief. It’s important to remember that not everyone is an ideal candidate for this endoscopic surgery, and a thorough physical examination will help your doctor determine if it’s the right choice for your specific condition.

What is recovery like?

The recovery process after a microdiscectomy stands out for its swiftness and effectiveness. Unlike traditional open discectomies, where muscles are cut, microdiscectomy involves retracting or gently moving aside muscles, resulting in significantly less tissue damage. This approach promotes faster recovery and rehabilitation.

Most microdiscectomies are performed as outpatient surgeries, allowing patients to return home on the same day. Although numbness and tingling can take a few weeks to completely resolve, most patients experience significant relief in their pain symptoms soon after their procedure.

During the initial recovery phase, certain activities like twisting, bending, and heavy lifting should be avoided to facilitate proper healing. Patients with sedentary jobs often find themselves able to return to work part-time within a couple of weeks, while most individuals can resume their regular activities in approximately six weeks.

To aid in the recovery process, physical therapy may be recommended. Physical therapists can assist in strengthening the back muscles, improving mobility, and increasing flexibility. They also offer valuable guidance on work and lifestyle adjustments to help prevent future disc injuries.