A microdiscectomy (also called a microdecompression) is usually more effective for relieving leg pain (also known as radiculopathy, or sciatica) than lower back pain. As a general rule, microdiscectomy is considered a relatively reliable surgery for immediate, or nearly immediate, relief of sciatica from a lumbar herniated disc.
A microdiscectomy, or herniated disc procedure, is performed through a 1 to 1½-inch incision in the midline of the low back. First, the back muscles are lifted off the bony arch (lamina) of the spine and moved to the side. Since these back muscles run vertically, they are held to the side with a retractor during the surgery; they do not need to be cut.
The surgeon may make a small opening in the bony lamina (called a laminotomy) if needed to access the operative site. The nerve root is gently moved to the side. The surgeon then uses small instruments to go under the nerve root and remove the fragments of disc material that have extruded out of the disc.
Patients typically stay in the surgery center or hospital for a few hours after surgery before being released to return home. Depending on the patient's condition, one overnight stay in the hospital may be recommended. Following the operation, patients may return to a relatively normal level of activities quickly. Patients are typically encouraged to walk within a few hours of the surgery.
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