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A lumbar discectomy is a surgical procedure performed used to alleviate symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower spine (lumbar spine is L1 to L5). During the procedure, damaged disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord is removed. Removing the disc alleviates the pressure caused by the bulging disc on the surrounding nerve roots and spinal cord.

A surgeon will get a diagnostic test done to confirm the herniated disc (MRI, CT, myelogram). ACDF is generally recommended after other non-surgical treatments have failed to alleviate symptoms.

What is Disc Herniation?

A disc herniation happens when the nucleus inside the center of the disc pushes through the annulus, the ligaments surrounding the nucleus. The herniated disc material may push outward, causing pain. Numbness or weakness in the arm occurs when the nucleus pushes on the spinal nerve root. Of greater concern is a condition in which the nucleus herniates straight backward into the spinal cord, called a central herniation. Discectomy relieves pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.


Significant leg pain, numbness, or weakness that inhibits daily activities

Leg symptoms do not get better after nonsurgical treatment

Results of a physical exam show weakness, loss of motion, or abnormal feeling that is likely to get better after surgery


In order to gain access to and remove the disc fragments, the surgeon will make an incision over the center of your back and move the muscles away from the bone of your spine. Using special instruments, a small amount of the lamina bone (the back of the ring over the spinal canal) and ligament is removed–this is called a laminotomy. This allows greater room for the surgeon to remove the disc (discectomy) material that is pressing on the spinal nerve or spinal cord.

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