New from JBJS Essential Surgical Techniques"Key Procedures" all-video articles

Latest Surgical Technique

January 27, 2016
  • Eeric Truumees , MD
  • Matthew Geck , MD
  • John K. Stokes , MD
  • Devender Singh , PhD
  1. Eeric Truumees, MD1,
  2. Matthew Geck, MD1,
  3. John K. Stokes, MD1 and
  4. Devender Singh, PhD1
  1. 1Seton Spine & Scoliosis Center, A Program of the Seton Brain and Spine Institute, Brackenridge University Hospital, Seton Medical Center, 1600 West 38th Street, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78731


In most patients, the radiculopathy associated with lumbar disc herniation resolves nonoperatively. For patients in whom nonsurgical management has failed, microdiscectomy can be considered. Today, an operating microscope is preferred because of the collinear light and magnification offered. Alternatively, loupes and a headlight may be employed. The major steps of the procedure are (1) making a 2-cm vertical incision and then developing the corridor to the lamina subperiosteally or by using serial dilation techniques; (2) confirming the level of surgery radiographically prior to incision and once the lamina has been reached and then detaching the lateral attachments of the flavum; (3) making a small laminotomy, resecting any superior facet osteophytes, then mobilizing the compressed traversing nerve root, and, in some cases, making a small annulotomy; and (4) removing loose disc fragments and performing wound closure.

Most outcomes reports after microdiscectomy have been favorable for radicular symptoms. Associated back pain typically decreased as well. Common complications include recurrent disc herniation or disc herniation at another level, wound infections, and durotomy with spinal headache.


  • Published outcomes of this procedure can be found at: Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Mar 15;31(6):653-7. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2008 Dec 1;33(25):2789-800. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2011 Oct 19;93(20):1906-14.

  • Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

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