If you need a microdiscectomy but are not suitable for general anesthesia, this procedure CAN be done using regional.

You may fear general or be a poor candidate for it, but this doesn’t mean you can’t undergo a microdiscectomy with regional anesthesia.

“Lumbar spinal surgery, especially a microdiscectomy, may be performed under regional anesthesia,” says spinal and orthopedic surgeon Kenneth K. Hansraj, MD, who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, laminectomies and spinal fusions, and is author of the book, “Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine.”

He continues, “Usually however, the anesthesiologists use a short-acting fentanyl to assist with analgesia.”

Herniated Disc Surgery

An Internet search may not bring up a lot of information on regional anesthesia being used for a microdiscectomy—a procedure that involves removing the portion of a lumbar disc that’s herniating (protruding out) from its natural space.

Thus, you may think that your only option is general.

“Lumbar microdiscectomy surgery is already performed under spinal anesthesia (SA) in many institutions,” states an abstract from a study (Dagher et al).

Another study (Papadopoulos et al) concludes: “Epidural anesthesia as an alternative to general anesthesia has shown less post-operative nausea and vomiting in lumbar microdiscectomy.”

Contraindications to herniated disc surgery under general include advanced age and severe heart disease.

More About Microdiscectomy

  • The procedure may be performed by either an orthopedic or a neurosurgeon.
  • A small portion of the bone over the disc material under the nerve root and/or nerve root is removed.
  • The surgery is been shown to be more effective as a general rule for relieving leg pain rather than low back pain.
  • In the case of leg pain, the relief is usually felt almost immediately after the procedure.
  • However, numbness or weakness symptoms may take weeks or even months to subside.
  • The microdiscectomy has been around for quite some time, and hence, many spine surgeons are very experienced with it, making this a reliable operation for nearly immediate – and sometimes outright immediate – relief of leg pain from nerve root compression.
  • Ask your physician about regional anesthesia, as there should be no reason why this can’t be done.
Dr. Hansraj is an orthopedic surgeon in Poughkeepsie, NY, and is affiliated with St. Francis Hospital-Roslyn. He received his medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and has been in practice for 20+ years.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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Sources:
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15112850
deepdyve.com/lp/elsevier/lumbar-microdiscectomy-under-epidural-anesthesia-a-comparison-study-DBiuVBhDms