This minimally-invasive procedure involves removing a small portion of bone over a nerve root and/or disc material from under the nerve root to relieve the pressure on the nerve and provide more room for it to heal. The procedure is typically performed for a herniated lumbar disc and is effective for relieving radiating pain in the leg from sciatica—also called radiculopathy.
During the procedure, the surgeon uses a small incision in the midline of the lower back, lifting the back muscles off of the bony arch, or lamina, of the spine, the muscles run vertically and do not need to be cut, just moved out of the way. The surgeon can then enter the spine by removing the membrane over the nerve and uses an operating microscope or operating glasses to view the nerve root. Sometimes a portion of the facet joint is removed to allow access to the nerve root and to relieve pressure over the nerve. The nerve root is then gently moved to the side and the disc material is removed from under the nerve root.
All of the joints, ligaments and muscles are left intact during the procedure, so microdiscectomy does not alter the mechanical structure of your lower spine and pain is relieved since there is less pressure on the nerve and reduces pressure inside the disc and keeps the spine stable. Recovery is usually fast with minimal scarring. Physical therapy follows before resuming normal activities.