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Having Minimally Invasive Lumbar Diskectomy

Lumbar diskectomy is a type of surgery to fix a disk in the lower back. Minimally invasive surgery uses two or more small cuts (incisions) instead of one large incision. This may lead to less pain after surgery, and faster recovery.

What to tell your healthcare provider

Tell him or her about all the medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen. It also includes vitamins, herbs, and other supplements. And tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have had any recent changes in your health, such as an infection or fever

  • Are sensitive or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, or anesthesia medicines (local and general)

  • Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant

Tests before your surgery

Before your surgery, you may need imaging tests such as MRI.

Getting ready for your surgery

Talk with your healthcare provider how to get ready for your surgery. You may need to stop taking some medicines before the procedure, such as blood thinners and aspirin. If you smoke, you may need to stop before your surgery. Smoking can delay healing. Talk with your healthcare provider if you need help to stop smoking.

Also, make sure to:

  • Ask a family member or friend to take you home from the hospital

  • Not eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery

  • Follow all other instructions from your healthcare provider

You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Read the form carefully. Ask questions if something is not clear.

On the day of your surgery

The surgery is done by an orthopedic surgeon and a trained medical team. There are several choices for the surgery. Your surgeon can help explain the details of your procedure. It may take about an hour. Here is an example of what you might expect:

  • You may have a type of anesthesia that numbs part of your body. You’ll also be given sedation. This will make you relaxed but awake during surgery. Or you may be given general anesthesia. This prevents pain and causes you to sleep through the surgery.

  • A healthcare provider will carefully watch your vital signs, like your heart rate and blood pressure, during the surgery.

  • During the procedure, the surgeon will use a special type of X-ray to view the surgery.

  • The surgeon will make a small incision on your back in the area of the affected disk. He or she will put a tubular retractor into this incision. This will expose the part of the spine to be treated.

  • The surgeon will then pass small tools through this retractor. This includes a tiny camera and a light.

  • The surgeon will remove the herniated portion of the disk using small tools. He or she will make other repairs as needed.

  • When the repairs are done, the surgeon will remove the tools and retractor. He or she will close the incision or incisions with sutures, glue, or staples. A small bandage is put on the wound.

After your surgery          

You will likely go home the same day. You will need to stay for a couple of hours after the procedure. Make sure you have someone who can drive you home.

Recovering at home

The procedure may cause slightly more pain for a while, but you can take pain medicines to relieve the pain. Usually this goes away quickly. Your pain should become less than it was before your surgery.

Your doctor will give you instructions about how you can use your back. You may need to limit lifting or bending. You may need to wear a back brace for a limited time after the procedure. Most people can go back to work within a week or so.

Follow-up care

Make sure to follow all your doctor’s instructions and keep your follow-up appointments. You may need physical therapy after surgery to help strengthen your back.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • A large amount of fluid leaking from the incision

  • Symptoms that don’t get better

  • Pain that is getting worse

  • New symptoms

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.