Lumbar Discectomy

What Is It?

A lumbar discectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat a lumbar herniated disc (in the lower back). Discectomy means the removal of the disc. Frequently, it is called a micro-discectomy because the operating microscope is used so that only a very small incision in the lower back is needed to remove the disc.

The microdiscectomy is generally the preferred method for treating a simple herniated disc in the lumbar region. In the neck, cervical herniated discs are usually removed through an anterior approach through the neck, not from the back as in a lumbar microdiscectomy. This is called an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

In general, a lumbar discectomy is performed through a very small, linear incision on the back over the area of the herniated disc. After dissecting down to the level of the spine, a small opening in the bone and soft-tissue on the back of the spine is made. The dural sac, which contains the nerve roots, is pushed aside to access the herniated disc in front. The disc can then be removed to remove its compression of the nerves which cause most of the symptoms of a herniated disc.

More recently some modifications of the traditional procedure have been introduced. Some lumbar discectomies are performed through small tubes either with an endoscope or microscope. Some physicians believe that this minimally invasive approach is less traumatic and leads to more rapid patient recovery. However, because the traditional microdiscectomy is already well tolerated and the incision size is not much different, some surgeons believe there is no significant difference.

What Is It Used For?

A lumbar discectomy is generally performed to remove a lumbar herniated disc. The indications for treatment vary but generally surgical treatment is reserved for patients with neurological symptoms and/or pain that can be definitively referred to the herniated disc in question. For more complex spinal pathology, other interventions are often performed along with or in place of a discectomy.

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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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