We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Lumbar Discectomy?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A lumbar discectomy is a surgical procedure to fix a herniated disc in the lower part of the spine, which often places pressure on nearby nerves. A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc becomes damaged and then either bulges or breaks. The lumbar discectomy can relieve symptoms of a disc herniation, such as weakness, numbness, and intense pain. During this surgery, the herniated part of the disc is taken out, along with any fragments that broke off.

Prior to undergoing a lumbar discectomy, patients will have an imaging test to confirm the diagnosis and the exact location of the herniated disc. The doctor may order a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test. Patients must disclose all other medical conditions they have. Those who take certain medications or supplements, such as blood thinners, aspirin, or St. John's wort, may need to discontinue these for a period of time.

The entire procedure typically takes about one hour to complete. A lumbar discectomy is usually performed under general anesthesia, so the patient can expect to be unconscious throughout it. Patients are then placed on their abdomens to allow the surgeon access to the spine. The area is then sterilized and the surgeon will make an incision.

Special instruments are used to gently separate a small area of the muscle from the bone surrounding the disc. The surgeon will likely use microscopic imaging tools to gain a better view of the area so that he can remove any portions of disc bone that are compressing the nerves. Loose bone fragments are also removed and the surgeon may apply antibiotics directly to the area to avoid infection. Although the muscles will naturally come back together, the surgeon may use a few stitches to help them heal. He will use stitches or surgical tape to close the incision.

A lumbar discectomy does not typically require an overnight hospital stay. The patient is encouraged to walk soon after waking up, as well as frequently during the first few weeks of recovery. Walking will help discourage scar tissue from forming. Patients should avoid strenuous activities or any activities that cause pain. Recovery may take two to four weeks; however, those with physically-intense jobs should wait six to eight weeks before returning to work.

Before undergoing a lumbar discectomy, patients should be aware of the potential risks. Blood clots and infections can occur, which will require additional treatment. The operation may also fail or the patient's symptoms may only be partially alleviated. There is also the possibility of damage to the nerves or to the spine.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.