Microendoscopic Discectomy

The Microendoscopic Discectomy (MED) is a minimally-invasive surgical technique used to remove a herniated nucleus pulpous (disc). A disc ruptures when there is a tear in the outer lining (annulus) of the disc. When a tear in the annulus occurs, a fragment of disc material may protrude and pinch surrounding nerves. When a nerve is compressed it can cause symptoms such as extremity pain, numbness, weakness, electrical sensations, and bowel and bladder incontinence. If symptoms are not relieved with conservative treatments, a patient may be a candidate for surgical removal of the herniated disc fragment.

Microendoscopic discectomy differs from open microdiscectomy. The incision using the microendoscopic technique is smaller (approximately 1 cm), causing less trauma to the surrounding tissue. A smaller incision allows for decreased post-operative pain and a faster recovery. A patient is considered a potential candidate for a microendoscopic discectomy if he or she has a large herniated disc fragment extruded to the side of the spinal canal.

Microendoscopic discectomy is performed by making a small incision in the patient's back and inserting a small endoscopic probe between the vertebrae and into the herniated disc space. A small camera is placed through the probe enabling the surgeon to view the operation on a TV screen in the operating room. Small surgical devices are placed through the probe to remove bone and herniated disc fragments.

The procedure usually takes about one hour; the patient is often able to return home on the same day. It is normal for a patient to experience postoperative pain, such as back pain, spasms, and lower extremity symptoms. These symptoms will usually improve as the nerve heals and inflammation of the nerve decreases. Patients are given pain medications during the healing process.