What is Microdiscectomy?

Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgical treatment to remove part of a herniated disc. It is also called microdecompression. A herniated disc may also be called a slipped, bulging, or ruptured disc.

A herniated disc can put pressure on nerve roots or your spinal cord. It can be very painful. When the pain radiates down your arms and legs, a microdiscectomy is a very effective treatment. It is generally not effective for treating back or neck pain.

A microdiscectomy might be recommended if:

  • Non-surgical treatments haven’t relieved your symptoms after 6-12 weeks
  • Your symptoms worsen
  • It is difficult to stand or walk due to nerve weakness
  • The pain radiating down your buttocks, chest, arms, or legs is unbearable

A standard open discectomy is a major surgery requiring a two to four-inch incision. It is done under general anesthesia and requires a hospital stay of several days.

The microdiscectomy uses small, specialized instruments inserted through tiny incisions. It is also performed under general anesthesia, but it has fewer risks and complications than an open discectomy because it is minimally invasive. Patients can usually go home the same or the next day.


Surgery Procedure

Microdiscectomy is done under general anesthesia, lying face down. Your surgeon will use a small, lighted microscope to see the disc and surrounding area during the procedure.

  1. Your surgeon starts by making a small incision over the herniated disc.
  2. It may be necessary to remove a small piece of bone over the nerve root.
  3. Your surgeon will remove the herniated tissue that is pressing on the nerve. This should relieve your symptoms.
  4. Your incision will be sutured closed.
  5. You may be cleared to go home that day or the following day.

You may need to wear a brace temporarily.


Recovery is much shorter than after an open discectomy. You can walk as soon as the numbness wears off.

You will need to avoid driving, sitting for long periods, lifting heavy objects, and bending over right after surgery. You may need a week or two away from work or with a reduced workload.

After surgery, you may see a physical therapist to learn ways to reduce the bending, lifting, and twisting you normally do with your back.

You may also learn exercises to strengthen the muscles around your spine.

A full recovery may take about six weeks. You may need to avoid exercise or other physical activity for the first two to four weeks. You will need to be gentle with your back at first and return to your normal activities slowly and carefully.


Microdiscectomy is generally safe. Complications are rare but may include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots, a type of blood clot called deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence (very rare)
  • Infection
  • Leaking spinal fluid
  • Nerve root damage
  • Reaction to the anesthesia
  • Recurrence of the herniation

You can help prevent complications with a healthy lifestyle, not smoking, and following your post-operative instructions while you heal.


Will microdiscectomy cure me?
Microdiscectomy may completely relieve your symptoms or significantly reduce them.

Is microdiscectomy right for me?
Microdiscectomy can be a very successful treatment, but it may not be right for everyone. You and your doctor should discuss your individual circumstances and needs to decide if it’s right for you.

How long before I notice a difference in my symptoms?
You should notice relief of leg pain almost immediately after surgery. Other symptoms like numbness or weakness may take longer to resolve.

If you think microdiscectomy surgery may be right for you, schedule a consultation visit today.

Quick Facts
  • Minimally invasive surgery to treated herniated disc.

  • Removes part of a herniated disc to relieve pain.

  • An option when non-surgical treatments are not successful.

Microdiscectomy Doctors
Christopher Tomaras MD
Raymond Walkup MD