Sometimes known as micro decompression spine surgery, a microdiscectomy removes a portion of bone or disc of the spine to alleviate the compressive force on an adjacent nerve. The procedure is especially useful in the lumbar (lower back) area of the spine when a disc protrusion or herniation occurs and squeezes nerve roots, causing the patient pain in the lower back and legs.

Often, a microdiscectomy is recommended when more traditional forms of treatment—such as medications and therapies—have failed to help with the symptoms and the patient has been in pain for more than six weeks.

The procedure begins with a small incision in the lower back, after which the muscles located there are moved to one side to allow for access to the vertebral bones. Once the disc can be clearly seen the protruding section is removed, relieving the pressure than had been placed on the nearby nerves.

Typically performed on an outpatient basis, patients will be advised to rest after the surgery and avoid any activities that may put strain or stress on the lower back. At least six weeks will be needed for complete healing, and risks from the procedure are rare but may include damage to nerve fibers. Additionally, approximately 10 percent of patients will see a recurrence of a disc herniation or protrusion.