Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Lumbar microdiscectomy

3-minute read

This page will give you information about a lumbar microdiscectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

You can also download and print a PDF version of this factsheet, with space for your own questions or notes.

What is a slipped disc?

A slipped disc is where the spongy centre of a disc bulges out and puts pressure on a nerve where it leaves your spine. This is called a slipped disc and it can cause severe pain, as well as weakness and numbness.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to relieve the pressure on the nerve so it can recover. Your symptoms should improve and this should help you to get back to your normal activities.

Are there any alternatives to lumbar microdiscectomy?

For many people, symptoms get better without surgery.

If you have a lot of pain, you can also have a steroid injection.

What does the operation involve?

Illustration of a lumbar microdiscectomy.
a A normal spinal canal and disc
b A disc bulge pressing on a spinal nerve

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes 45 minutes to an hour.

Your surgeon will make a cut on the centre of your back. They will use an operating microscope to remove the disk.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • unsightly scarring
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • blood clots
  • difficulty passing urine
  • chest infection
  • heart attack or stroke

Specific complications

  • worse pain or numbness down your leg
  • numbness between your legs, loss of normal bowel and bladder control and, for men, problems having an erection
  • neuropathic pain
  • tear of the thin membrane that covers the nerves in your spine

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

Do not lift anything heavy or twist your body. Make sure you keep a good posture when sitting and walking.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

9 in 10 people make a good recovery from surgery and are able to return to normal activities.

Summary

A slipped disc is where the spongy centre of a disc bulges out and puts pressure on a nerve where it leaves your spine. The aim is to relieve the pressure on the nerve so it can recover.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Last reviewed: September 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Sciatica - Better Health Channel

Most cases of sciatica resolve by themselves within six weeks to three months.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Sciatica: treatment - myDr.com.au

Most sciatica gets better within a few weeks. If not, there are treatments that may help relieve your sciatica pain.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo