If protruding disc material (disc herniation) is the source of radiating nerve pain, often referred to as sciatica, a minimally invasive procedure called a microdiscectomy may be performed. During the surgery, the protruding part of the damaged disc that’s pressing on the spinal nerve root is removed. At one time, it was a complex procedure that often involved a lengthy hospital stay. Thanks to the development and implementation of minimally invasive procedures, a microdiscectomy performed today is done with smaller incisions to remove the damaged disc.
Retractors and a special operating microscope are used as the surgery is performed to visualize the affected area of the spine and allow access to remove the offending disc. Part of a bone called the lamina may be removed to allow for better visualization, depending on the location of the herniated disc. Due to the way the procedure is performed, scarring is usually minimal and patients often go home either the same day or the next day. If patients were experiencing leg pain due to nerve compression, relief after a microdiscectomy is usually immediate after surgery. For radiating pain that included numbness and tingling sensations, it may take a few weeks or months for the affected nerve roots to fully heal.