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Discectomy and Microdiscectomy

Our neurosurgeons at Princeton Brain, Spine & Sports Medicine will always seek minimally invasive treatments for all your spine problems. However, in some cases, surgery may be required to resolve your issues. If physical therapy, medication, and other non-surgical options have not provided relief from your symptoms, surgery like a microdiscectomy may be the solution to managing your condition.

What is a Microdiscectomy?

Microdiscectomy is a herniated disc surgery. It involves removing a small portion of the herniated disc pressing on nearby nerves, causing pain and other symptoms.

During a microdiscectomy, the surgeon makes a small incision in the back and uses specialized instruments to remove the damaged portion of the disc. This minimally invasive approach allows for quicker recovery time and less post-operative pain compared to traditional open-back surgery.

Microdiscectomies are typically recommended for patients who have not experienced relief from conservative treatments such as physical therapy or medication. Overall, a microdiscectomy can be an effective treatment option for relieving pain and improving function in patients with herniated discs. However, it is important to discuss all possible treatment options with your healthcare specialist, who will determine if this procedure is right for you.

Common symptoms that may indicate the need for a microdiscectomy include sharp pain in the lower back or legs, numbness or tingling in the extremities, and weakness in muscles controlled by affected nerves.

Difference between Microdiscectomy and Discectomy

Microdiscectomy and discectomy are both surgical procedures used to treat herniated discs in the spine, but there are some key differences between the two.

  • Discectomy: A more traditional open surgery where the surgeon makes a large incision in the back to access and remove the herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve. This procedure usually involves removing part of the lamina (the vertebrae’s bony arch) to access the affected disc.
  • Microdiscectomy: A much less invasive procedure that uses a smaller incision and specialized tools to remove only the portion of the herniated disc that is causing symptoms. This approach typically results in less damage to surrounding tissues, reduced blood loss, and faster recovery times compared to traditional discectomy.

While both procedures can provide relief from pain and other symptoms associated with herniated discs, microdiscectomy is generally preferred by our surgeons and patients due to its less invasive nature and quicker recovery time. However, not all cases of herniated discs are suitable for microdiscectomy, so your surgeon will work with you to determine which procedure is best for your specific condition.

Conditions Treated with Microdiscectomy

Microdiscectomy is used to treat conditions related to herniated discs that affect the spine and cause pain and other related symptoms. This minimally invasive surgery involves removing a portion of the damaged disc material that is pressing on nearby nerves.

The conditions that can be effectively treated with microdiscectomy include herniated discs and other spinal problems that lead to herniation, such as degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or severe cases of sciatica.

Microdiscectomy Procedure Overview

A microdiscectomy is typically performed under general anesthesia, although some patients may be able to have it done with local anesthesia and sedation. Your spine surgeon makes a small incision near the affected disc and uses specialized tools to remove the portion of the disc that is pressing on the nerve.

During the procedure, the surgeon may also remove any fragments of disc material that have broken off and are causing further irritation to the nerve. They may also remove a portion of the lamina (the bony arch of the vertebra) to access the spinal canal and nerve roots. This is known as a laminotomy or laminectomy.

The incision is then closed with sutures or staples. Microdiscectomy recovery varies from patient to patient but generally involves a short hospital stay followed by several weeks of rest and physical therapy.

Most patients experience significant relief from their symptoms after surgery and can resume normal activities within a few months.

As with any surgery, there are risks associated with microdiscectomy. It’s therefore important to discuss these risks with your surgeon before undergoing the procedure. Overall, microdiscectomy is considered a safe and effective treatment for herniated discs that do not respond to conservative measures such as physical therapy or medication. It can provide long-lasting relief from the pain and other distressing symptoms of herniated discs.

Recovery from Microdiscectomy

Recovery from a microdiscectomy can vary depending on the individual and the extent of the surgery, but there are some general guidelines that can help facilitate getting you back to normal as quickly as possible.

  • Immediately following the surgery, you are typically monitored for a few hours before being discharged.
  • Initially, you may experience some pain and discomfort at the surgical site, which will be managed with pain medications prescribed by your surgeon.
  • It is important to follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions carefully, which may include restrictions on lifting heavy objects, bending, or twisting at the waist, and engaging in strenuous activities. You will be encouraged to gradually increase your activity level over time.
  • Physical therapy will play a key role in your rehabilitation after a microdiscectomy. You will be recommended gentle exercises to strengthen your core muscles and improve your flexibility in order to support proper spinal alignment, aid your recovery, and prevent future injury.
  • Most patients can return to work within a few weeks following a microdiscectomy, although this timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances. It is important to communicate with your healthcare team about your progress and any concerns you may have throughout the recovery process.

Contact one of our offices conveniently located throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania to discuss any concerns you may have about your spinal health. Symptoms affecting your normal daily activities can normally be resolved with minimally invasive treatment if caught early.

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