What is Microdiscectomy Spine Surgery?

Microdecompression (or microdiscectomy) spine surgery involves removing a small amount of bone surrounding a nerve root or disc material to relieve pain and allow the nerve to heal properly.

The procedure is most commonly done in the case of a herniated lumbar disc and is also effective at treating a form of leg pain known as radiculopathy.

Compression of the nerve root can cause a great deal of leg pain and this surgery can offer immediate relief from the pain, although it may take months for the nerve root to heal completely.

Leg pain caused by a herniated disc usually gets better on its own after 6 to 12 weeks, so it’s best to attempt non-surgical treatments before undergoing serious back surgery. If the pain is not alleviated after non-surgical treatments, microdiscectomy surgery may be the best option to improve healing and relieve the pressure.

It’s important to note that this surgery does not have the best odds of success if it is postponed more than three to six months after the pain begins.

The Procedure

During the procedure, a small magnifying tools is used to analyze the nerves and the disc itself through a small incision made in the lower back midline. The muscles are moved away from the lamina and the membrane surrounding the nerve root is removed. Sometimes a small bit of facet joint is also surgically removed to relieve pressure. Once the nerve root is moved, the disc is removed.

Preparation for the Surgery

Before undergoing spine surgery, you should consult with your doctor and discuss any underlying medical conditions as well as medications you may be taking. You must abstain from smoking for at least 5 days before the surgery and your doctor may take you off certain medications up to two weeks before. You will also need an MRI, CT scan and/or a myelogram before the procedure.


It’s a good idea to begin moving as soon as your anesthesia wears off. Your physician may prescribe medication to manage pain. Avoid sitting for more than 15 minutes and schedule follow-up visits to remove any surgical staples and begin physical therapy. Avoid any strenuous activity and walk regularly to reduce the chance of scar tissue. Avoid any activity that requires bending or twisting for at least three weeks. Do not take a shower to bath until the wound is completely healed, which usually takes two weeks.

Surgery Risks

While risks of microdiscectomy spinal surgery are rare, they may happen. These risks include nerve root injury, infection, blood clots, bleeding, spinal damage, bowel or bladder incontinence and leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid. There is also a chance that the surgery will not provide any pain relief.

Success Rate

The success rate for this procedure is 90 to 95%, although up to 10% of patients eventually develop a recurrent disc herniation that requires further treatment. This complication may not occur for years, although it is most likely to occur in the first 3 months post-surgery. A revision microdiscectomy may be necessary, although this places you at a higher risk of additional recurrences.