What is lumbar discectomy surgery?

Lumbar discectomy surgery is a safe and effective procedure that involves removing the bulging portion of a herniated disc, which is compressing your nerves. However, the rest of the disc will remain intact so it can keep absorbing shock. Freeing the pinched nerve will resolve pain, numbness, or weakness in your lower back, buttocks, and limbs.

Most patients report excellent results after getting a lumbar discectomy for severe or persistent sciatica. Moreover, this procedure is also a very effective first line of treatment for the rare cauda equina syndrome, which constitutes a medical emergency.

Types of discectomy surgery

Depending on where your bulging disc is located, you could have this type of surgery on any part of your spine. However, lumbar discectomies are the most common, followed by cervical (neck) discectomies. Either of these procedures can be performed in one of the following ways:

Open (standard) discectomy — relatively large incisions through skin and muscles are used to expose the herniated disc, making recovery longer. This type of surgery is rarely used nowadays in modern healthcare facilities.

Microdiscectomy — is a minimally invasive surgery where special tools are used to make an incision only 2-5 cm long and remove the excess disc tissue through it.

Percutaneous discectomy — A small incision is made into the skin, and a probe or needle is inserted and guided to the affected disc. It then removes the bulging part using radio waves or a laser.

Minimally invasive surgery tubular discectomy — This procedure is very similar to microdiscectomy. Still, it uses small tubes called serial dilators to lift the muscles off the vertebrae instead of cutting them for faster recovery.

Full endoscopic discectomy — A small incision is made to insert an endoscope (a medical device with a camera). This tool provides better visibility for the surgeon to remove the bulging disc tissue.

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Discectomy Surgery FAQs

Are there still things you would like to learn about getting spinal discectomy surgery at our London clinic? Find out more about this procedure by reading the answers to these frequently asked questions:

Lumbar discectomy has a 70-90% success rate. The best outcomes are usually encountered in patients who have this operation within a year of their first symptoms. Longitudinal studies found that 84% of patients were satisfied or very satisfied with their surgery results 7-20 years post-procedure.

Recovery times differ with the type of surgery you have undergone – minimally invasive procedures lead to significantly faster healing. Normally, you should be able to walk a few hours post-operation and may resume light activities after a week or two. However, it is recommended that you wait 3-6 months before engaging in strenuous activities (e.g. heavy lifting or contact sports).

While all spinal surgery is serious, this procedure is normally considered safe and minimally invasive, especially if you opt for a microdiscectomy or a percutaneous discectomy. The operation is performed in an outpatient setting, and the risk of complications is low.

While the trimmed bulging disc tissue is not likely to grow back, you may still need a second discectomy. That is because even after a successful procedure, there is a 0.5-25% chance you will experience disc re-herniation at the same level. This causes 12.2% of patients to require a second operation within 4 years.

Most patients go on to live perfectly normal, pain-free lives after recovering from their discectomy. This is especially true if they follow their surgeon’s post-operative recommendations, exercise regularly, and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Spinal discectomy surgery costs

Flexible Payment Options to Suit You

Payment Plans

Spread the cost of your medical treatment over several months with our finance options and medical payment plans. This is ideal for patients seeking the speed and comfort of private healthcare without significant upfront payments.


Use our self-payment options to get prompt care with the consultant of your choice. Patients looking for fast, efficient treatment without private health insurance are welcome to pay for treatment before their procedure.

Private Medical Insurance

We welcome patients with private medical insurance from approved insurers, including Bupa, AXA, Aviva, and many more. Find out how to claim for your treatment with private health insurance to get optimum care and comfort.

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Learn more about discectomy surgery

Discover more about discectomy surgery and how it can reduce pain and restore mobility, so you can fully enjoy life once again:

Both of these are spinal decompression surgeries that free your trapped nerves to reduce pain, but there is one key difference. A discectomy is needed to trim a herniated disc, while a laminectomy is performed to remove the lamina (the bony arch of the vertebrae).

While every surgery carries some risks, discectomies are generally safe. The most common complications are infection, bleeding, and bruising. Rare complications include damage to the spinal nerves or blood vessels, spinal fluid leakage, and the formation of blood clots.

The amount of pain medication you will need varies. While some patients feel fine only taking over-the-counter painkillers, others require stronger prescription medications. Rest assured that our experienced pain management consultants will help you remain comfortable throughout recovery.

While you may be feeling well enough to resume work 2 weeks after a microdiscectomy, most patients return to their jobs in around 6 weeks. However, if your occupation requires strenuous activity (e.g. heavy lifting), you may need to wait at least 3 months post-surgery.

You are free to start driving again as soon as you are no longer taking driving-impairing medication and you feel comfortable sitting behind the wheel. For some, this may only take a few days, while for others, it may take a few weeks. However, be sure to avoid driving if you have any residual weakness or numbness in your leg or foot.

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