When a patient has a herniated disc that is pressing on a nearby nerve root, the pain can be chronic and radiate down into the legs. If the disc herniation has continued for some time, the patient may even have numbness, weakness, or other neurological symptoms in the leg and foot.
At Coastal Spine, our three spine surgeons, Drs. Deutsch, Momi, and Testaiuti, often address this leg pain with a microdiscectomy, which is usually very effective for relieving the pain.
What is a microdiscectomy?
The term microdiscectomy can be a bit of a misnomer, as it isn’t treating some “micro” discs; the procedure simply uses minimally invasive methods to address herniated or bulging spinal discs. The goal is to go in and remove the portion of the disc that has herniated and is pushing on the nerve root. In most cases, some of the facet joint, is removed to further ensure the nerve compression is relieved.
How is a microdiscectomy performed?
For this procedure, a small incision is made in the midline of the low back, directly above the herniated disc. The back muscles need to be moved. Since they run vertically, they can be pushed to the side rather than needing to be cut. This makes for easier recovery. The muscles are lifted off of the bony arch, called the lamina, on the back of the spine.
To facilitate access to the disc and the nerve root, in most cases we remove a portion of the inside facet joint. This also helps ensure compression on the nerve root is minimized or totally alleviated. Next, we remove the membrane over the nerve root. This membrane is called the ligamentum flavum.
Now, the nerve root is gently moved to the side and we cut away the portion of the disc that has pushed outward onto the nerve root. We only remove the herniated portion of the disc, leaving the healthy remainder intact. This is different than a fusion procedure, where the majority, if not all, of the damaged disc is removed and replaced by a cage/spacer.
We then reposition the nerve root and back muscles and close the small incision.
In most cases, the patient has immediate pain relief now that the disc is no longer irritating the nerve root. In some cases, it may take weeks or months for the nerve root to fully heal. During this time, there can be enduring numbness or weakness, but as the nerve root heals, this decreases and normal function and feeling returns.
Do you have chronic pain in your legs and feet? You could have a herniated disc in your lumbar spine and could benefit from a microdiscectomy with our expert team at Coastal Spine. Call us at (856) 222-4444 and schedule a consultation at one of our four New Jersey locations.