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Lumbar Discectomy

Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy Surgery

Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy surgery is performed to address the symptoms caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar or lower spinal region. The surgery aims to relieve the pain and discomfort that is caused when a spinal disc has protruded or herniated through the annulus. This herniation leads to inflammation or pressure being exerted on the spinal nerves in the surrounding area of the disc herniation. 

Lumbar discectomy surgery extracts the part of the disc which has herniated or protruded in order to relieve the compression that is being caused by it. Most of the spinal disc remains intact after the surgery, providing support for the spine. With the minimally invasive techniques that are used in this procedure, a small incision is made and specialized surgical tools are used to gain access to the affected spinal area. These minimally invasive techniques result in less pain for the patient and less damage to the tissue surrounding the herniated disc. Because of this, recovery time is reduced significantly when compared to the traditional open method of surgery that is performed for this procedure.

What Happens During the Surgery

Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy surgery is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. The patient is layed face down, or prone, on a specialized operating table that makes it easier for your surgeon to access the affected spinal level. The surgical area is then cleaned and sterilized and a tiny incision about 1.5 centimetres in size is made above where the herniated or degenerative disc is located. Your surgical team will take an X-ray to confirm the proper spinal level is about to be operated on. To access the affected spinal disc, soft tissue dilators are used to gently pull back and seperate the muscle fibres which overlay it. A tubular retractor is then placed overtop of the dilators and the dilators are removed. Your surgeon will then remove a small keyhole from the lamina of your spine, which allows them to access the interior of the affected spinal disc by exposing the spinal canal. After gaining access, your surgeon will extract the protruding or herniated part of the disc which is causing you pain or discomfort. Your surgeon will then investigate the area to see if there are any small loose fragments present and if any are found, they will be removed as well. 

Once the procedure has been performed, strong sutures will be used to seal the wound shut. Dissolvable sutures are then used to close the incision and surgical tape is placed to hold the dissolvable sutures in position. A small dressing is then used to cover the incision area. 

In total, minimally invasive lumbar discectomy surgery typically takes between 45 minutes and one hour to be completed. 

After Surgery Care

Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy surgery is classified as a day surgery and the patient is discharged from the hospital once they've recovered from the effects of general anesthesia. This usually only takes a few hours after the procedure has been performed. Following the procedure, you will receive thorough postoperative instructions from the surgical centre. As a result of the minimally invasive techniques that were used to perform the surgery, less cutting and damage will have occurred to the muscles and tissue in the surgical area compared to the traditional open method of this procedure. This means you should experience very minimal pain in the affected area. Following the surgery, you are prohibited from bending or twisting your back for 1-2 weeks. You are also prohibited from lifting anything heavy during that time. Activities which may cause you to exert a lot of effort such as yard work or exercise are prohibited for the first two weeks following your surgery as well.

How Long After Surgery Can I Return to Work or Recreational Activities?

The minimally invasive nature of this surgery allows for a reduced recovery time when compared to the traditional open method. This means you should be able to return to work in a somewhat reduced capacity about 1-2 weeks after the procedure. If your healing is progressing as expected and your back muscles have regained their strength, you should be able to return to full recreational and work activities around 3-4 weeks following the surgery.

How Successful Is the Surgery? 

Research has shown lumbar discectomy surgery to be extremely successful in relieving the pain and symptoms associated with disc herniation. In one such study, good results were achieved in 80-90 per cent of patients who underwent the procedure.

How Much Care Is Required for the Surgical Wound? 

Minimal wound care is required following the surgery thanks to the minimally invasive nature of the procedure. A small dressing on the surgical wound will accompany you home and should be left on for three days. Once the three days have passed, the dressing may be removed and the wound can be exposed to air. The surgical tape which is underneath should not be removed and you should take care to keep the surgical wound dry and clean. When taking a shower, a bandage should be placed over the wound and you should do your best to avoid getting water directly on it. It is not recommended to have a bath until about five days after the surgery. 

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