With the patient under general anesthesia, the surgeon performs a lumbar discectomy of the spine by making an incision in the patient's back; removing the lamina, or bone at the backside of the spinal canal; retracting the spinal nerve to the side; and removing the portion of the lumbar disc compressing the spinal nerve root, explains Mayfield Brain and Spine. If the patient has bone spurs or synovial cysts contributing to nerve root compression, the surgeon removes those as well.
If the surgeon is performing an open technique, he makes a large incision and uses muscle retraction to see the spine; in a minimally invasive technique, he makes a small incision and uses tubes and special instruments to help him see and operate on the area, states Mayfield Brain and Spine. The minimally invasive method is less disruptive to the muscles of the back and can decrease recovery time. In some cases, the surgeon may also perform a fusion, in which a bone graft and metal hardware connect two vertebrae together, allowing them to fuse into one piece eventually.
Following surgery, most patients go home the same day, says Mayfield Brain and Spine. Fatigue is common in the first few days, and the patient may need assistance with activities such as bathing and dressing. Recovery time varies from one to four weeks, depending on the patient's health and underlying cause of back trouble.