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What is Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy?

Lumbar discectomy is a spinal surgery that involves the removal of the damaged intervertebral disc(s) to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves (decompression) in the lumbar (lower back) region, which forms the lower portion of the spine and comprises of five vertebrae (L1-L5). A minimally invasive technique is implemented to perform the surgery.

Indications for Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy

Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy is indicated in cases of severe nerve root compression due to a ruptured disc. Symptoms of nerve impingement include back pain or radiating pain into the hips, buttocks or legs, numbness or tingling sensation, and muscle weakness in the back and lower extremities.

Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy Procedure

  • The procedure will be performed with you lying on your stomach. A small incision is made over your lower back and your surgeon gently separates the muscles to access the affected disc.
  • A tubular retractor can be inserted to produce a portal through which your surgeon can perform the surgery.
  • Through the tubular retractor, a portion of the lamina, the bony vertebral component that covers the posterior wall of the spinal canal, is removed to expose the compressed area of the spinal cord or nerve roots.
  • Removal of the lamina releases the source of compression from the herniated disc or bone spurs. The complete procedure is known as decompression. After the completion of the procedure, the incision is closed leaving behind a minimal scar.

Postoperative Care following Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy

The post-surgical hospitalization includes the rehabilitation program. If required, your surgeon may prescribe pain medications or a brace and follow-up physical therapy upon discharge.

The recovery period depends on your body’s healing capacity. The period of your rest or inactivity depends on a few factors such as the type of surgical procedure and the approach used to access your spine, the size of the incision and presence of any complications. Return to work or normal activity depends on the type of work or activity you plan to perform. Usually, 3 to 6 weeks is the ideal time of healing.

Strictly adhere to the postoperative instructions suggested by your spine surgeon to promote healing and reduce the possibility of postoperative complications.

Advantages of Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy

Some of the benefits include:

  • Very small incisions are made
  • Surgery can be performed in less time
  • Minimal damage to the surrounding structures is made
  • Recovery time is shorter with less post-surgical complication
  • There is a lower rate of infection
  • You will have a greater range of motion with less postoperative pain

  • Hao-Hua Wu, M.D.

    101 The City Drive South
    Pavilion 3 Building 29A
    Orange, CA 92868

  • UCI Health — Tustin

    1451 Irvine Blvd.
    Tustin, CA 92780

  • UCI Health — Newport Beach

    2161 San Joaquin Hills Road
    Newport Beach, CA 92660

  • UCI Health — Yorba Linda

    18637 Yorba Linda Blvd.
    Yorba Linda, CA 92886

Useful Links

  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Pennsylvania Logo
  • University of California San Francisco Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • AOSpine
  • North American Spine Society
  • Global Spine Research Initiative