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Lumbar discectomy

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Lumbar discectomy treatment is the removal of the herniated or bulging part of an intervertebral disc in your lower back. It is performed to relieve the pressure the bulging disc is exerting on nearby spinal nerves.

Nowadays, lumbar discectomy is often performed using minimally invasive surgery called microdiscectomy.

What is lumbar discectomy?

Your spinal discs are cushion-like shock absorbers for your spine. When a disc slips, herniates, or bulges out of position, it can push on your spinal nerves and this nerve compression causes lower back and leg (sciatic) pain, pins and needles and, numbness in your leg. A slipped disc is the most common cause of lower (lumbar) back pain.

Lumbar discectomy is a type of spinal decompression surgery used to relieve the pressure that a herniated or slipped disc causes as it presses on the nerves in your spinal column. 

Lumbar discectomy can be performed by traditional open surgery or using minimally invasive techniques, known as microdiscectomy.

What is a microdiscectomy?

Microdiscectomy, also known as a minimally invasive discectomy, is a discectomy carried out through a smaller incision. It is one of the most common minimally invasive spinal procedures.

During microdiscectomy, a special microscope and tiny surgical instruments are inserted into your lower spinal column through a small incision and the herniated section of your prolapsed disc is removed so that it no longer puts pressure on your nerve. 

The advantages of microdiscectomy over open discectomy are: that it can be performed in an outpatient setting and you can go home the same day, smaller incisions are made, less blood loss, lower risk of infection, a faster recovery and, reduced postoperative pain and medication use.

What conditions is a lumbar discectomy used to treat?

• Lumbar slipped disc and sciatica – when your disc becomes worn or injured its soft centre can push out of its normal space. This is known as a slipped or herniated disc and it can press on nearby nerves in your spine causing lower back pain and pain in your legs, known as sciatica.

• Degenerative disc disease – as your disc naturally wears, it dries out and shrinks and, loses its cushioning ability, whilst bone spurs form and your facet joints inflame. This can lead to spinal stenosis or disc herniation.

What does lumbar discectomy surgery involve?

Lumbar discectomy surgery is a procedure to remove part of the disc that is pressing on a nerve. It's carried out under general anaesthetic.

In open discectomy your surgeon will make an incision over the affected area of your spine down to the bony arch of your vertebra, called the lamina. They will gently move tissue and the nerve to access your slipped disc and remove the disc part that is pressing on your nerve. They will then close the incision.

Sometimes, depending on your diagnosis, lumbar discectomy is combined with other spinal decompression surgery techniques such as laminectomy and spinal fusion, to allow the best method of creating space for your nerves so that they are not compressed.

Complications following a lumbar discectomy surgery

As with any surgery complications may occur including: pain, bleeding, incision site infection, scarring and, blood clots.

Lumbar discectomy is commonly performed and is generally a safe procedure. 

Possible complications specific to lumbar discectomy surgery may include:

• nerve injury and paralysis
• loss of bladder or bowel control
• continued pain or numbness down your leg
• infection of the intervertebral disc.

Cost of a lumbar discectomy surgery

If you decide to pay for your treatment, Ramsay offer an all-inclusive Total Care package, where a single one-off payment at a pre-agreed price, delivering direct access to all the treatment you need for complete reassurance. You can also spread the cost of your treatment with finance options available.

A lumbar discectomy surgery may be covered by your medical insurance policy. We advise you to check directly with your insurance provider and get written confirmation before commencing treatment. 

Recovering from a lumbar discectomy surgery

If you have had microdiscectomy you may go home the same day. For open discectomy patients you might have an overnight stay in hospital.

Lumbar discectomy recovery varies from one to four weeks depending on the exact condition being treated, they type of surgery performed and, your general health. You should follow your surgeon’s advices regarding your individual recovery plan.

Lumbar discectomy with Ramsay Health Care

Here at Ramsay hospitals our qualified and expert spinal surgeons regularly perform lumbar discectomy as a stand-alone procedure or part of a combination of lumbar spine decompression procedures. 

We perform microdiscectomy whenever clinically appropriate to allow patients to recover from their lower back pain as quickly as possible. We also have qualified physiotherapists and a fully equipped modern imaging service at most of our hospitals.

Contact us now to book your appointment. 


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Contact your local Ramsay hospital to book an appointment or for more information. Treatment may be covered by medical insurance and self pay packages are available on request.