What is Lumbar Microdiscectomy
A lumbar microdiscectomy is a surgery performed on a patient’s lower back to relieve lower back pain. The pain is caused when the spongy, cartilaginous disc that cushions the space between the vertebrae ruptures or herniates. The contents of the disc then press on the nerves that radiate out from the spinal cord, including the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve, which has two branches, is a long nerve that runs down the lower back, through the buttocks and down the legs. When it is impinged, the patient can feel anything from a mild ache in the back to excruciating shooting pains down their leg. Usually, only one branch of the sciatic nerve is affected at a time.
Despite the pain, sciatica often clears up by itself because the herniated disc shrinks. In other cases, the pain is eased through therapies such as massage, electrotherapy, warm compresses to the back, muscle relaxants and prescription painkillers.
A doctor diagnoses a ruptured hernia through listening to their patient’s symptoms, giving them a physical exam and conducting imaging tests. The imaging tests can include CT scans and MRIs. X-rays don’t actually show a herniated disc, but they can show other problems with the lower back.
A lumbar microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive operation. It presents less risk to the patient than an open procedure and allows for a shorter recovery time. The patient doesn’t lie on their stomach to expose their back but kneels on a special support. They may be given general anesthesia or spinal anesthesia.
After the incision is made, the muscle over the spinal column is painstakingly dilated instead of cut away from the bone. The surgeon wears glasses that enlarge the surgical field to make the area easier to see. Others use a surgical microscope or an endoscope attached to a monitor, though an endoscope restricts the surgeon’s vision somewhat.
The last bit of muscle over the vertebra is removed, then the lamina, or the roof of the vertebra that covers the spinal nerves, is removed. The ligament that covers the nerves, save the nerve that’s exiting the spine, is also removed. The surgeon manipulates this area until they find the ruptured disc beneath it. The damaged part of the disc is then removed. The wound is washed with an antibiotic solution and stitched or covered with tape. The patient is allowed to wake up and is taken to a recovery area. If there are no further problems, they can go home in a few hours.
About the Recovery Process
The patient should recover at home for at least two weeks. They should avoid doing any strenuous activity during that time apart from gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. For pain, the doctor may prescribe NSAIDs and milder narcotics. These pain meds should be taken for no longer than two weeks. Ice packs are also helpful when it comes to easing discomfort.
Why Choose Treasure Valley Hospital for this surgery?
Residents of Idaho should choose Treasure Valley Hospital not just for the skill of its experienced orthopedic surgeons and staff but for their compassion and understanding. Our doctors endeavor to help our patients through conservative methods but know when surgery is the only way to ease their patient’s pain. Our patients can expect the highest quality care at the lowest cost. Our patient satisfaction scores are consistently higher than other area hospitals.