How effective is lumbar microdiscectomy (LMD) surgery?

Dr. Don Y. Park, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Studies show that there are excellent clinical results with lumbar microdiscectomy (LMD) surgery, with greater than 90 percent clinical success with treatment of nerve compression causing leg pain, if the symptoms are related to that nerve being compressed.

An observational study showed highly significant improvements in all outcome measures with microdiscectomy as compared to nonoperative treatment at three months. And the improvements continued up to two years. Combining the randomized and observational results, the results show that at four and eight years, superior results are found in all outcome measures with surgery, as compared to nonoperative treatment.

Other studies have shown that when comparing microdiscectomy with nonsurgical treatment, leg pain from nerve compression improves more rapidly with surgery than nonoperative treatment. However, at the one- to two-year point, the results tend to equalize and no difference of outcomes are seen. Unsuccessful nonsurgical treatment factors could be high disability scores or more intense leg pain. These people are more likely to fail nonoperative treatment and do well with surgery. Surgery has been found in multiple studies to be cost-effective, have people return to work quickly and have a return to function quickly, as compared to nonoperative treatment.

Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Lumbar microdiscectomy (LMD), which is a procedure to remove diseased or damaged disk material away from spinal nerves, is a very effective operation to relieve leg pain from a disk herniation. National statistics show that 85 to 90 percent of patients who have this surgery feel it was worthwhile. It is, therefore, considered the "gold standard" by which all other disk operations are measured. Doctors continue to research other surgical treatments for disk herniation, but so far nothing else has proven as safe and effective as LMD.

LMD is not effective in treating pure back pain. While leg pain usually improves, low back pain may not improve.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.