Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure using a microscope. A small incision is made in the back directly over the problem disc. The skin and soft tissues are separated to expose the bones along the back of the spine. An X-ray of the low back is taken to ensure the surgeon works on the right disc.
A retractor is used to spread apart the lamina bones above and below the disc. Then the surgeon makes a tiny slit in the ligamentum flavum, exposing the spinal nerves. A special hook is placed under the spinal nerve root.
The hook is used to lift the nerve root, so the surgeon can see the injured disc. Next, the outer ring of the disc is sliced open. Material from inside the disc is scooped out to ensure the disc doesn't herniate again.
Since only the injured portion is removed, the disc is left intact and functioning. Then the surgeon inspects the area around the nerve root and removes any loose disc fragments. Finally, the nerve root is gently wiggled to make sure it is free to move. If it can't move, the surgeon also cleans around the nerve passage between the two vertebrae. When the nerve moves freely, the muscles and soft tissues are put back in place, and the skin is stitched together.