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What is a minimally invasive lumbar discectomy?

This procedure is performed to remove a prolapsed disc or disc fragments which will relieve the pressure on the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord.

A small cut will be made to the side of the middle of the back.

Using x-ray for guidance, a tube retractor will be passed down through the muscles on the back and placed over the correct area of the spine.

Through this tube, and using a microscope, bone and ligament and other material will be removed to identify the disc.

Once the disc is identified, the prolapsed disc or disc fragments are removed from the spine.

A small plastic tube (drain) may be inserted to allow any residual fluid to be drained away. This will be removed within 24 – 48 hours.

The cut is closed with stitches or staples.

My Anaesthetic

This procedure will require a General Anaesthetic.

See About your Anaesthetic information sheet for information about the anaesthetic and the risks involved. If you have any concerns, talk these over with your doctor.

If you have not been given an information sheet, please ask for one.

What are the risks of this specific procedure?

There are some risks/complications with this procedure.

Common risks include:

  • Infection. This may need antibiotics and further treatment.
  • Minor pain, bruising and/or infection from IV cannula site. This may require treatment with antibiotics.
  • Bleeding. A return to the operating room for further surgery may be required if bleeding occurs. Bleeding is more common if you have been taking blood thinning drugs such as Warfarin, Aspirin, Clopidogrel (Plavix or Iscover) or Dipyridamole (Persantin or Asasantin).
  • Small areas of the lung may collapse, increasing the risk of chest infection. This may need antibiotics and physiotherapy.
  • Increase risk in obese people of wound infection, chest infection, heart and lung complications, and thrombosis.

Uncommon risks include:

  • A heart attack because of the strain on the heart.
  • Stroke like complications which can cause weakness in the face, arms and/or legs. This may be temporary or permanent.
  • Clots in the leg (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) with pain and swelling. Rarely part of this clot may break off and go into the lungs.
  • Nerve root injury. This may be temporary or permanent.
  • Injury to the covering of the spinal cord. This may require further surgery.
  • Deterioration of other discs. This may require further surgery.
  • Ongoing persistent back and leg pain, with possible leg numbness due to nerve damage from compressed nerve roots. This may require further surgery.
  • Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid. This may need further surgery.
  • Visual disturbance. This may be temporary or permanent.
  • Paraplegia. This may require further surgery. This may be temporary or permanent.

Rare risks include:

  • Injury to major blood vessels. This will require further urgent surgery.
  • Death is very rare due to this procedure.

  • royal-australasian-college-of-surgeons
  • flinders-medical-centre
  • cmc-vellore
  • calvary-adelaide-hospital
  • Neurosurgical Research Foundation