A micro-discectomy is spine surgery that involves removing all or part of a diseased or damaged intervertebral disc to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve(s) in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (upper/neck) spine using minimally invasive techniques.  Our neurosurgeons are skilled to perform this procedure using the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques.  Minimally invasive spine surgery involves a small incision or incisions and muscle dilation, allowing the surgeon to separate the muscles surrounding the spine rather than cutting them. Your neurosurgeon will determine if this the best option for you.

In addition to removing all or part of the disc any bone material (bone spurs) that are pressing on the nerves and causing pain will also be removed during the procedure. Because it eliminates nerve/nerve root compression, a discectomy is also known as a decompressive spinal procedure.

A discectomy may be performed in conjunction with spinal fusion. This involves placing bone graft or bone graft substitute between two or more affected vertebrae to promote bone growth between the vertebral bodies. The graft material acts as a scaffold – as the body heals, the vertebral bone and bone graft eventually grow together to join the vertebrae and stabilize the spine. Spinal fusion also may be performed through the “tube” created using minimally invasive surgical techniques.

Lumbar Micro-discectomy

A minimally invasive lumbar discectomy may be recommended when intervertebral disc or bone material is pressing into or pinching these neural elements and you are experiencing leg pain, weakness/numbness in your leg(s) or feet and/or impaired bowel and/or bladder function

  • The operation is performed with the patient positioned on his or her stomach.
    After a small incision is made, the muscles of the spine are dilated, or gently separated, and a tubular retractor is inserted to create a portal through which the surgeon may perform surgery.
  • Through the tubular retractor, a portion of the lamina (the bony vertebral element that covers the posterior portion of the spinal canal) is removed to expose the compressed area of the spinal cord or nerve root(s).
  • Pressure is relieved by removing of the source of compression – all or part of a herniated disc, a rough protrusion of bone called a bone spur, or in some instances a tumor.
  • The small incision is closed, which typically only leaves behind a minimal scar.

Cervical Micro-discectomy

Pressure placed on the spinal cord as it passes through the cervical spine can be serious, since most of the nerves for rest of the body (e.g., arms, chest, abdomen, legs) must pass through the neck from the brain. Symptoms may include pain in the neck and/or arms, lack of coordination and/or numbness or weakness in the arms, forearms or fingers. A cervical discectomy can ease pressure on the nerves, ultimately providing pain relief.

  • The operation is performed with the patient on his or her back, sedated under general anesthesia.
  • Through a very small incision made at or near the center of the front of your neck, your surgeon will gently and gradually dilate, or separate, the muscle and structures in the neck, and insert a series of small tubes, called dilators, to create a portal through which the spine is accessed and surgery performed.
  • Remove any sources of compression; i.e., bone spurs and/or disc material.
  • Remove the tubes and/or retractors, ease the soft tissues back into place and close the incision.

In some instances, your surgeon may choose to perform surgery using a posterior approach, in which the spine is accessed and surgery done through an incision made in the back of your neck. A posterior cervical discectomy also may be performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques.


Your surgeon will have a specific postoperative recovery/exercise plan to help you return to your normal activity level as soon as possible. You may notice an immediate improvement of some or all of your symptoms; other symptoms may improve more gradually. All treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient so results may vary.

The amount of time that you have to stay in the hospital will depend on your individual treatment plan. You typically will be up and walking in the hospital by the end of the first day after the surgery. Your return to work will depend on how well your body is healing and the type of work/activity level you plan to return to.

Work closely with our team to determine the appropriate recovery protocol for you, and follow his or her instructions as closely as possible to optimize the healing process.

Please note the materials on this Web site are for your general educational information only.  You should always consult with our neurosurgeons for your personalized diagnosis and treatment.

Content adapted from Medtronic Catalyst patient education http://catalyst.medtronic.com/catalyst/business-of-medicine/patient-education/

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