Lumbar Discectomy

Spine X-rayHow is it done?

The patient is placed face down on a special operating theatre table.  An x-ray machine is used to identify the correct level for the operation.  An incision 7 cm long is made over the lower back.  The muscles are separated from the spine on one side and the space containing the nerves is entered.  The nerves are moved aside and the disc fragment removed.

What does it achieve?

The fragment of disc pressing on the nerve roots is removed.

Complications

20% of people will have a further disc prolapse; in other words, another piece of disc material comes out the same hole.  This can occur shortly after the operation or up to several years later.  Wound infection 1 – 2%. Nerve damage. CSF leak.

Recovery

Hospital one or two nights.  Return to work 6 – 12 weeks.  Full recovery 1 year or more, depending on time taken to get spine muscles strong.