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Back Pain & Spine Care

Lumbar Discetomy Procedures

Discectomy is surgery to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord. Before the disc material is removed, a small piece of bone (the lamina) from the affected vertebra may be removed. This is called a laminotomy or laminectomy. It allows the surgeon to better see the herniated disc.

Microdiscectomy uses a special microscope to view the disc and nerves. This larger view allows the surgeon to use a smaller cut. This causes less damage to surrounding tissue.

During discectomy, the surgeon removes the part of the disc that is herniated and is pushing into the spinal canal. Any loose fragments of disc are also removed.

It is usually done in a hospital. You are asleep or numb during the surgery. You will probably stay in the hospital overnight.

What To Expect After Surgery

After surgery, you will be encouraged to get out of bed and walk as soon as the numbness wears off. You can use prescription medicines to control pain while you recover. You can slowly resume exercise and other activities.

Other things to think about include the following:

  • You may not be comfortable sitting at first. Most people avoid having to sit for longer than 15 or 20 minutes. But sitting will feel more comfortable over time.
  • Walk as often as you can for the first several weeks. Getting up often to walk around will help lower the risk that too much scar tissue will form.
  • If you work in an office, you may go back to work in 2 to 4 weeks. If your job requires physical labor (such as lifting or operating machinery that vibrates) you may be able to go back to work 4 to 8 weeks after surgery.
  • Many people are able to resume work and daily activities soon after surgery. In some cases, your doctor may suggest a rehabilitation program. This may include physical therapy and home exercises.

Why It Is Done

Surgery is done to decrease pain and allow you to regain normal movement and function.

You and your doctor may consider surgery if:

You have very bad leg pain, numbness, or weakness that keeps you from being able to do your daily activities.
Your leg symptoms do not get better after at least 4 weeks of nonsurgical treatment.
Results of a physical exam show that you have weakness, loss of motion, or abnormal feeling that is likely to get better after surgery.