What Is Microdiscectomy?
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What Is Microdiscectomy?

illustration of spine

What Is Microdiscectomy?

Spinal surgery once meant large incisions, long recovery periods, and painful rehab. Fortunately, surgical advances like the microdiscectomy procedure have improved the process.

Microdiscectomy, also sometimes called microdecompression or microdiskectomy, is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure performed on patients with a herniated lumbar disc. During this surgery, a surgeon will remove portions of the herniated disc to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve column.

Who Benefits from Microdiscectomy?

According to a study in the Journal of Neurosurgery, outpatient microdiscectomy is 75 to 80 percent effective at eliminating sciatica pain caused by disc herniation. Sciatica is a pain condition caused by compression of the spinal nerve. This compression is most often the result of a herniated lumbar disc.

Learn about the symptoms, causes, and effects of a herniated disk »

As the hernia develops and the damaged tissue extends into the spinal column, it pushes on the nerves. This causes the nerves to send pain signals to the brain. The pain is interpreted to be coming from the legs.

How Is the Surgery Performed?

During a microdiscectomy, a small incision will be made directly over the affected disc. A lighted microscope will help your surgeon see the affected area. The surgeon may remove a small portion of bone that protects the root nerve. With a scissor-like tool, your surgeon will remove the damaged herniated tissue relieving the pressure on the nerve. The spinal nerve now has the space it needs inside the spinal column, so any pain caused by pinching on the nerve should stop.

Recovery Time

The recovery time is shorter than other, more invasive procedures. Most people can expect to leave the hospital that same day, or within 24 hours.

You’ll likely meet with a physical therapist and occupational therapist before leaving the hospital. These therapists will give you instructions on how to reduce the bending, lifting, and twisting you do with your back.

Although you won’t be able to resume to normal activities immediately, your lifestyle shouldn’t be greatly impacted. For the first week or two, you may need to reduce your workload or be absent from work while you recover. You’ll also need to avoid lifting heavy objects for two to four weeks after the surgery. This generally includes anything more than five pounds.

You may also need to slowly progress your way back to normal physical activity. For example, you may not be able to resume exercise or physical hobbies for two to four weeks after the procedure.

What Is the Cost?

Because a microdiscectomy is a specialized surgery that requires a surgeon with special training, it can be more expensive than other back surgeries. Prices for the surgery vary and can range anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000. This price may not include any follow-up visits or care.

Your health insurance may cover a large portion of this expense once you pay your deductible and co-insurance. If you don’t have insurance, be sure to talk with your hospital, surgeon, and all other medical professionals before receiving the procedure. Ask if you can negotiate a lowered rate because you are paying from your own pocket.

Talk to Your Doctor

Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive procedure with an outstanding track record for relieving pain. If you’re a candidate for the procedure, you should discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery with your doctor.

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