Why you may need a lumbar microdiscectomy
A lumbar microdiscectomy is a type of spine surgery performed to relieve pressure on the nerve roots, or spinal cord, caused by a herniated disk, the effect of which is a tearing in the outside casing of the rubbery disks cushioning the vertebrae. When the casing (annulus) tears, the inside jelly-like materials (nucleus pulposus) can leak out and begin to poke and compress the nerve.
Performing a lumbar microdiscectomy will decompress the nerve roots, allow the initial tear in the casing to heal, the residual disc material to remain functional, and hopefully alleviate the source of your back and leg pain.
How to prepare for spine surgery
There are many things you can do to promote long-term disk health before and after surgery. Maintaining a healthy body weight, being mindful of posture, and avoiding tobacco products that are damaging to healthy tissue, are daily ways to maintain spinal health and ensure that they are in the best surgery shape possible! Remaining active and flexible is important before any surgery, but especially following the surgery, continuing to strengthen the back muscles will allow the disks to heal and return to functionality.
What happens during a lumbar microdiscectomy?
In order to locate the precise location of the herniated disks and the site of the compressed nerves, a skin incision will be made to allow the surgeons to take a fluoroscopy x-ray. In order to do so, the surgeon will carefully move the spinal muscles away from the spine, and allow the x-ray to determine the exact location of the tear requiring treatment. With the help of magnifying loupes or an operating microscopy, the soft tissue surrounding the spine is gently opened, to create a direct passage to the ruptured disk. In some cases, a small hole will be drilled in the bone covering the spine (laminotomy) or in the ligament (lamina) to obtain better visualization of the compressed nerve and the ruptured disk.
With optimal visualization of the tear, the surgeon will be able to strategically tease the ruptured disk away from the nerve, remove any loose pieces of the disk, and carefully coagulate any small vessels that may be bleeding but have yet to damage the nerve. Once the pressure is alleviated, the soft tissue will be returned to its place, and the skin incision will be closed.