Jason E. Smith MD

Spine Surgeon with Baton Rouge Orthopaedic Clinic 

Call Us:  225-924-2424

Microlumbar Discectomy

What Is A Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy?

A lumbar discectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves relieving the pressure placed on nerve roots and/or the spinal cord by a herniated disc in the lower back.

Lumbar refers to the five vertebrae of the lower back. Discs are the spongy, cartilaginous pads between each vertebra, and ectomy means “to take out.” In a lumbar discectomy, the surgeon accesses the lumbar spine through an incision in the back over the vertebral levels to be treated and removes part of the disc, and in some cases bone material, that’s pressing on the nerves and causing pain.

Minimally invasive spine surgery involves a small incision.  A microscope is then used to visualize the nerve elements and vessels in the back.

Why Do I Need This Procedure?

In general, spine surgery is recommended when intervertebral disc or bone material is pressing into or pinching neural elements and conservative measures have failed  to relieve the symptoms you are experiencing:

Leg pain that limits your normal daily activities
Weakness or numbness in your leg(s) or feet
Impaired bowel and/or bladder function

How Is A Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy Performed?

Positioning of the patient is laying on their stomach on a padded frame or gel rolls.

After a small incision is made, a small retractor is placed.   Through the retractor, a portion of the lamina (the bony element that covers the posterior portion of the spinal canal) is removed to expose the compressed area of the spinal cord or nerve root.

Pressure is relieved by removing the source of compression – all or part of a herniated disc, a rough protrusion of bone called a bone spur, cyst, or in some instances a tumor.  

The small incision is closed with dissolvable suture and small surgical strips or Nylon suture that will be removed 2 weeks postop which typically only leaves behind a minimal scar.

How Long Will It Take Me To Recover?

For the majority of patients, you may notice an immediate improvement of some or all of the leg pain.  The remainder of the symptoms may improve more gradually.

The length of the hospital stay is usually same day discharge or outpatient.  You will be up and walking soon after the recovery from anesthesia.  

Your return to work will depend on what your occupation and job requirements are.  

**The rule of thumb after a microlumbar discectomy is 6 weeks of NO bending, lifting over 5 lbs, or twisting of the lumbar spine.**

The first 6 weeks are when you are at greatest risk for a re-herniation.  After 6 weeks, when things have had time to heal, the risk drops down to very minimal.

Are There Any Potential Risks Or Complications?

Complications such as infection, nerve damage, blood clots, blood loss and bowel and bladder problems, along with complications associated with anesthesia, are some of the potential risks of spinal surgery.