Exploring Microdiscectomy Surgery with Dr. Scott Raffa

Microdiscectomy surgery is a minimally invasive spinal surgery technique that involves the removal of a small portion of the herniated disc material, which is pressing on the spinal nerves. This procedure helps relieve the pressure and alleviate the symptoms of pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected area. Microdiscectomy is typically performed on patients suffering from lumbar disc herniation, which affects the lower back.

What is Microdiscectomy?

Microdiscectomy is performed to treat patients with a herniated disc that causes severe and debilitating pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back, buttocks, or legs. When conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and rest have failed to provide relief, microdiscectomy may be recommended as an effective surgical option.

The primary goal of microdiscectomy is to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves, thereby alleviating the associated symptoms. This procedure can provide significant pain relief and improve the quality of life for patients without relief through non-surgical methods.

What is Involved?

The microdiscectomy procedure is typically carried out under general anesthesia, and the patient is positioned face-down on the operating table. The surgery involves the following steps:

  1. Incision: The surgeon makes a small incision, usually about 1-1.5 inches long, over the affected area of the spine. This minimally invasive approach results in less muscle and tissue damage than traditional open surgery, leading to faster recovery times.
  2. Retraction: The surgeon uses a specialized retractor to gently separate the muscle layers and expose the affected area of the spine.
  3. Laminotomy: A small portion of the bony arch (lamina) that covers the spinal canal is removed, creating an opening to access the herniated disc.
  4. Disc removal: The surgeon carefully removes the herniated disc material, compressing the spinal nerves, while preserving the remaining healthy disc material. This decompression helps relieve pressure on the nerves and alleviates symptoms.
  5. Closure: The surgeon closes the incision with sutures or staples and covers it with a sterile dressing.

Recovery from microdiscectomy surgery is generally faster than that of traditional open spine surgery, with most patients being able to return home within 24 hours. Patients may be advised to avoid heavy lifting, bending, or twisting for several weeks after surgery. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help restore strength, flexibility, and function in the affected area.

Risks & Complications

As with any surgical procedure, microdiscectomy surgery carries certain risks and complications. These may include:

  1. Infection: There is a risk of infection at the incision site or within the spinal area. Antibiotics may be prescribed to minimize this risk.
  2. Bleeding: Excessive bleeding during or after the surgery is a rare complication. In some cases, a blood transfusion may be required.
  3. Nerve damage: Although rare, there is a possibility of nerve damage during the procedure, which could result in persistent pain, numbness, or weakness in the affected area.
  4. Recurrence of disc herniation: In some cases, the disc may re-herniate after surgery, necessitating further treatment.
  5. Dural tear: A tear in the protective covering of the spinal cord, called the dura mater, may occur during surgery. This may lead to cerebrospinal fluid leakage, which may require additional surgery to repair.
  6. Anesthesia risks: As with any procedure requiring general anesthesia, there are risks associated with administering anesthesia, including allergic reactions and breathing difficulties.
  7. Blood clots: There is a risk of developing blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) following surgery, which can potentially travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Despite these potential risks and complications, microdiscectomy surgery has a high success rate, and most patients experience significant pain relief and improved function after the procedure.

Postoperative Care & Recovery

Following microdiscectomy surgery, patients will have regular follow-up appointments with their surgeon to monitor their progress and address concerns. These visits are crucial for ensuring a successful recovery and preventing complications.

Long-term outcomes for microdiscectomy surgery are generally positive, with many patients experiencing lasting pain relief and significantly improving their quality of life. Studies have shown that over 80% of patients report excellent results following the procedure. However, it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, exercise regularly, and practice proper body mechanics to prevent further spine issues.


Microdiscectomy surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that offers an effective solution for patients with a herniated disc causing severe pain and discomfort. By removing the herniated disc material and decompressing the spinal nerves, this surgery can provide significant pain relief and improve the quality of life for those who have not found relief through conservative treatments.

For a comprehensive evaluation and to explore your treatment options, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment or seek a second opinion consultation with Dr. Scott Raffa at Cantor Spine Center at the Paley Orthopedic & Spine Center by calling 561-935-1188. Take the first step towards a pain-free life by calling us today.