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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago


Microdiscectomy, or minimally invasive spine surgery, enables surgeons to treat a number of spinal disorders, such as:

  • Degenerative disc
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal fractures
  • Spinal tumors
  • Infections
  • Instability

These and other conditions can be treated with a minimally invasive technique that uses state-of-the-art technology, including tiny endoscopic cameras that give surgeons the ability to see inside through minimal incisions.

This technique was designed to bring the least amount of disruption to the muscles that would be dissected and retracted during traditional open-lumbar (back) surgery.

Benefits of Microdiscectomy

  • Smaller incisions
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Less pain
  • Smaller scars
  • Reduced muscle retraction
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Quicker recovery
  • Faster return to normal activities

The Procedure

Microdiscectomy uses a special microscope that lets the surgeon view the damaged disc and compressed nerves. This enables them to make more precise incisions, with less corresponding damage to neighboring tissue.

It is intended to decrease pain and restore normal movement and function in the patient, and is considered for patients who meet the following criteria:

  • Severe leg pain, numbness, and/or weakness that prevents normal functioning
  • Failure to improve after at least four weeks of nonsurgical treatment
  • Physical examination indicates that improvement is likely after surgery
  • Patient has cauda equina syndrome, requiring emergency intervention

After Surgery

Your doctor will encourage you to walk as soon as you are able, to help with recovery. You will be giving medicine to help control your pain.

Activities will be light at first, gradually increased as healing progresses. Some post-operative adjustments include:

  • Discomfort sitting: you may find it difficult to sit for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, although this will ease with recovery
  • Walking frequently: especially in the first several weeks, walking a great deal will assist in healing and lessen the likelihood of too much scar tissue forming
  • Work schedule: you may return to office work in two to four weeks; for physical labor, four to eight weeks
  • Physical therapy: your doctor may encourage a physical rehabilitation program to help restore you to a full and active lifestyle

Last UpdateJanuary 19, 2012