A microdiscectomy or discectomy is a commonly performed surgical procedure which is performed from the back with the patient lying on their front or side. The skin and underlying muscles are cut to expose the back of the spine. Small amounts of bone and ligament are removed until a big enough opening is achieved to safely pull the nerve root to one side. The prolapsed material is then removed. Any loose fragments in the disc space are also removed. The amount of material usually represents about 20% of the disc. The rest of the disc is left in place. Nothing is placed in the disc to fill the space. The nerve is then replaced in its proper position. The procedure is performed under general anaesthesia and generally takes about one hour.
Patients will be in hospital between one and three days and will mobilise after surgery with the aid of a physiotherapist. The wound takes about two weeks to heal and patients will need to be off work between two weeks and two months depending upon the activity and type of work.