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Lumbar/Cervical Microdiscectomy

What Is a Microdiscectomy?

A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to remove a section of a damaged or herniated intervertebral disc. Also referred to as a microdiscectomy decompression, the procedure is done endoscopically, with small incisions that protect the nerves surrounding your damaged disc.

A microdiscectomy is a more precise version of a discectomy. Dr. Branko Skovrlj — an award-winning neurosurgeon and the founder of NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute in Edison, New Jersey — performs this procedure, when more conservative approaches to pain relief haven’t worked. The surgery follows a sequence:

  • Once you’re under the general anesthesia, Dr. Skovrlj makes the incisions near the problem disc.
  • He inserts the endoscope, using the monitor to guide it to the targeted disc.
  • Using small surgical tools passed through the tube, the surgeon may first remove a small piece of the vertebra shielding the spinal cord, called the lamina, in a procedure called a laminectomy.
  • The laminectomy is required if the disc is protruding into your spinal canal, creating a condition called stenosis.
  • Once Dr. Skovrlj has access to the disc, he can use the tools to remove the disc or its contents that rub up against your nerve. Removing the disc reduces the pressure on your impacted nerve.
  • The tools are withdrawn, and the incisions are closed and dressed.

Your doctor may have to perform a spinal fusion to make up for the disc that’s no longer doing its job. The fusion adds strength and stability to your spine. Usually performed on an in-patient basis because you’re not conscious during the procedure, microdiscectomies may require an overnight stay in the hospital.

What Causes a Herniated Disc?

Herniated discs in the lumbar spine are among the most common causes of back pain. Intervertebral discs:

  • Are the pads located between your spinal vertebrae
  • Cushion the spinal bones
  • Add flexibility to your spine
  • Possess a tough exterior and soft inner material

A herniated disc — also referred to as a ruptured disc — occurs when the soft inner portion oozes out through the outer casing. If that material comes in contact with a nerve or if it leaks into your spinal canal, you feel back pain as a result. Although you may recover on your own or through medications and physical therapy, a herniated disc more often gets worse over time. Eventually, you need surgery to remove the disc fragments that are pressing on your nerves.

What Is Lumbar Microdiscectomy Surgery?

Lumbar microdiscectomy surgery refers to a microdiscectomy on the lumbar region of your spine. The lumbar spine region is the lower back. During lumbar microdiscectomy surgery, Dr. Skovrlj uses the same technique for an ordinary microdiscectomy, but the procedure happens in the lower back.

Lower back pain is so prevalent that approximately 30 million Americans suffer from the condition at any given moment. Besides herniated discs, a lumbar microdiscectomy may be used to treat other conditions, such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • A slipped disc
  • A pinched nerve
  • A compression injury
  • Post-laminectomy syndrome
  • Revision surgery

Why Should I Have Microdiscectomy Surgery?

While you may recover from the low back pain caused by herniated discs through medications and physical therapy, you most likely need more aggressive treatment. Consider lumbar microdiscectomy surgery if you and your New Jersey spine surgeon identify symptoms that include:

  • Your back or leg pain is severe enough to prevent you from performing your daily activities.
  • A physical exam reveals a loss of strength or mobility.
  • Your symptoms don’t improve after six weeks of non-surgical treatment methods.

Your cauda equina is a bundle of nerves that controls your genitals, bladder and intestines. Cauda equina syndrome is a severe condition that occurs when these nerves are compressed, which requires lumbar microdiscectomy to resolve. Signs that you’re suffering from cauda equina include:

  • Weakness in your legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Tingling or numbness in your buttocks or genitals
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