Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 23, 2015
Your back is a complex structure, so it’s no surprise that there are a host of different procedures that can be performed to alleviate back pain. There’s spinal fusion, disc replacement, cortisone injections, osteophyte removal, nerve debridement and microdiscectomy operations. We’ve talked about a lot of those procedures in depth on our blog before, and while we’ve talked about microdiscectomy operations in passing, we’ve never fully explained the procedure and outcome expectations. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do in this blog.
Why Undergo Microdiscectomy Surgery?
A microdiscectomy operation may be performed for a number of reasons, but oftentimes doctors recommend a microdiscectomy surgery to address a herniated disc or nerve issues causing lower back and leg pain. Like most procedures, microdiscectomy isn’t usually the first option. A doctor will generally try conservative measures like oral steroids, NSAIDs, physical therapy and strengthening exercises before recommending a surgical operation.
The success rate of a microdiscectomy operation is very high. Current estimates suggest that that microdiscectomy operations are successful at relieving pain in 90-95 percent of cases, although about 1 in 15 patients will develop a recurrent disc herniation at some point in the future.
The Microdiscectomy Surgical Process
A minimally invasive microdiscectomy operation begins with general anesthesia. The patient is asleep and positioned on their stomach. The surgeon then makes a small, roughly 1-inch incision in the midline of the lower back. The surgeon carefully maneuvers the back muscles near the lamina to get near the spine.
Once in this position, the surgeon then enters the spine by removing a membrane over the nerve roots with the assistance of operating glasses or a microscope to view the nerve root. The surgeon may remove a small portion of the inside facet joint to access the nerve root and depressurize the area around the root. Finally, the surgeon gently moves the nerve root to remove the damaged disc material that is causing the nerve problems. Once the disc material is removed, the surgeon will close the surgical site with sutures.
Many patients achieve significant pain relief after undergoing a microdiscectomy, and because nearly all of the joints and muscles are left intact, the operation doesn’t change the mechanical structure of the patient’s lower spine. Also, because the operation is minimally invasive, infection rates and healing times are generally reduced compared to open operations.
Lastly, if conservative treatments fail, it’s a smart decision to talk to your doctor about the possibility of a microdiscectomy sooner rather than later. Success rates aren’t quite as high if you’ve been dealing with a damaged disc for more than six months, so consult with a surgeon today if you’re dealing with daily back pain.