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Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy

Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy

A lumbar discectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing part of a damaged disc in the lower portion of the spine. Discs serve as cushions between vertebrae. If the situation allows, our surgeons perform this surgery using minimally invasive techniques.

Why Would I Need a Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy?

Damage or displacement of the soft discs that cushion the space between your vertebrae can put pressure on nerves in your spine. When this occurs in the lower five vertebrae of your back, known as the lumbar region, you can experience:
  • Debilitating back and leg pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the lower extremities
  • Lower extremity muscle weakness
Surgery is not typically recommended until non-surgical options have failed to relieve symptoms. Lumbar discectomies are one of multiple spinal surgeries. Consult your spinal surgeon to see if it is the right operation for your condition.

What is the Procedure Like?

Minimally invasive lumbar discectomies require a small incision, rather than the large cuts required for open surgery. The basic steps to the procedure are as follows:
  • The patient lies face down
  • A small incision is made in the back
  • A fluoroscope provides x-ray visuals
  • Dilators are inserted to gently spread the muscles
  • A portion of bone is removed
  • Nerves are gently moved aside with a retractor to expose the disc
  • Problematic portions of the disc are removed
  • Tissue is placed back in its original position and the incision is closed


Recovery times vary by patient. For a minimally invasive procedure, many patients are able to leave the day of surgery, but may not be able to return to work for several weeks. Patients may experience complete relief of pre-surgery symptoms immediately after the procedure, while some symptoms may gradually improve with time. Discuss your recovery plan with your spinal surgeon.

Risks and Complications

Minimally invasive procedures generally carry a much smaller risk of complication than open surgeries. However, any spinal surgery has a potential risk of infection, nerve damage, blood clots, blood loss and bowel or bladder problems, in addition to risks associated with anesthesia and spinal procedures. Consult your spinal surgeon on your potential risks.

To learn more about minimally invasive lumbar discectomies or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.