Many people experience lower back pain on a daily basis. There are several different treatments available for back pain, but after everything has been done, numerous people have to turn to surgery. Surgery can be painful and have a long recovery, but there are some options within that category that are considered minimally invasive. A Lumbar Microdiscectomy falls into that, and it can be a great option for many patients.
Why have one?
A lumbar microdiscectomy is done as a pain relief procedure to help a patient with a herniated disc. As we age, the discs in the spine can shrink, tear, or bulge out of place. These discs are essential to spinal function, so when one is damaged it can strain the surrounding muscles and cause pain in the surrounding nerves. A discectomy removes a small portion of the disc or nearby vertebrae in order to relieve the pressure it may be causing. It is minimally invasive and can prevent quite a bit of pain without reducing mobility. It can also help a patient to stop relying heavily on narcotic pain medications, which can happen due to the painful nature of disc herniation.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
There are several signs and symptoms that can indicate when a person has a herniated disc in the lumbar region. Obviously, many people experience lower back pain, sometimes extending into sciatica. Sciatica is nerve pain that travels from the lumbar region down the legs. This can lead to numbness in the legs and possibly even difficulty walking. Some people experience weakness in the legs and lower back. Most patients who are candidates for surgery experience chronic pain that does not go away through other treatments like physical therapy. A micro lumbar discectomy is almost like a step between less invasive treatments and a surgery that could be more invasive and have a longer recovery time.
Procedure and Treatment
The procedure itself is relatively simple. The patient is given a local anesthetic before the surgery begins, so they are not conscious. The surgeon makes a small incision where the herniated disc has bulged out, and carefully moves the surrounding nerves and tissue out of the way. Depending on the severity of the herniation, the doctor may only remove part of the disc, usually the part that is bulging out of the spine. This method is usually a very short and simple surgery. At times, it is not that simple, and the doctor may adjust the disc, remove a larger portion, or maybe even remove portions of the vertebrae during the operation. Usually the portions of the vertebrae that might be removed are the outer parts that jut out and hinge together, known as the foramen. Most surgeons do not remove bone from the main body of the vertebrae. Then the surgeon replaces the moved nerves and tissue and the incision site is then stitched or glued shut.
Lumbar Microdiscectomy Recovery
After the surgery, the patient usually has a short recovery period in the hospital. Most people can return home after several hours, or sometimes an overnight stay. During the hospital stay, the patient is shown how to care for the incision site. They are also monitored for any adverse reactions or problems. Many patients immediately feel a difference in their pain! Most patients are instructed to refrain from lifting, twisting, or bending excessively for at least two weeks. There will then be a follow-up appointment where the doctor can examine the site and determine if the surgery went well. Then, the patient will still want to avoid as much strenuous activity as possible for about four more weeks.
Benefits of Microdiscectomy
One of the best benefits of having a micro lumbar discectomy is the pain relief, which occurs for most patients. Many patients experience a marked improvement of numbness, a regained amount of motion, and decreased pain within the first two weeks. In addition, there is a short recovery time for any surgery, and most people with sedentary jobs can return to work very quickly. Some can return to work almost immediately as long as they follow their doctor’s restrictions. This is a great benefit for a lot of people. Other surgeries to correct the same problem involve a much longer recovery time, sometimes up to six months!
Risks of Microdiscectomy
A concern for patients and doctors alike with a lumbar microdiscectomy is that it will not solve the problem. Sometimes during recovery, a patient could do something that can cause their disc to herniate again. This could also happen later. About 25% of patients do experience a second herniation after the surgery. This could be less severe, but it can still be painful. Some people will also not find the pain relief they need, either long-term or immediately. This could mean that the patient would have to undergo a second, much more invasive surgery, to repair the herniated disc. Usually in this case the doctor would recommend a fusion surgery or a disc replacement surgery. Though unlikely, a patient could also experience more pain as a result of the nerves being moved around during the surgery. These are risks that have to be weighed and considered for each individual.
Is Lumbar Microdiscectomy right for me?
Whenever a decision is made regarding surgery, be sure to educate yourself and involve your doctor in your deliberation. When pain is chronic, it can sometimes feel like surgery is the only option for relief. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits that your situation will bring to this kind of operation. In many cases, they can help you to see the available options and help you make the right choice for you. If you are experiencing chronic lower back pain and you have not seen a doctor, make an appointment as soon as possible! They can help you determine the source of your pain and find the best treatments. If you take care of your body, you can live a much longer and happier life!