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Am I Eligible for an Microscopic Discectomy?

Am I Eligible for an Microscopic Discectomy?

Most of us probably don't give our spines enough credit — until something goes wrong, like a herniated disc. Fortunately, state-of-the-art spine treatments, such as minimally invasive microscopic discectomy, can help.

 At Steel City Spine and Orthopedic Center, with three locations in Western Pennsylvania plus an extension office in South Florida, Dr. Jocelyn Idema and our expert team provides a range of cutting-edge spine health and orthopedic services, including herniated disc repair. 

Spine anatomy

The spine gives the human body structure. By connecting the bones and muscles of the musculoskeletal system, it also facilitates movement and flexibility. Things we take for granted, like standing, walking, sitting, twisting, and bending, would be impossible without the spine.

The spine extends from the base of the skull to the tailbone and is shaped like an S with three natural curves. Thirty-three vertebrae form a tunnel that protects the spinal cord and its nerves connecting the brain to the other areas of the body.

Other parts of the spine include facet joints that allow vertebrae to slide against each other, intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae, and soft tissues like ligaments, muscles, and tendons that aid in support and movement.

Herniated discs

Herniated discs are a common cause of neck and back pain, affecting up to 2% of the population yearly. They occur when the outer layer of the shock-absorbing, flat, round disc cracks, and the soft, jelly-like center pushes out to pressure the spinal cord or nearby nerves.

Symptoms vary by location of the herniated disc and usually affect one side of the body.

Disc herniation in the lower back can cause sciatica, with sharp nerve pain in the hip, leg, or buttocks. Pain in or around the neck, shoulder blade, upper arm, forearm, or fingers may indicate a herniated disc in the neck.

A herniated disc in any location may also include tingling or numbness.


For some, a herniated disc heals with rest, over-the-counter or prescription medications, and heat or ice. Others, however, may need a further evaluation that includes options for  non-surgical and surgical intervention, including physical therapy, spinal injections, or ultimately minimally invasive spine surgery.  

Microoscopic discectomy

Approximately one person in 10 needs surgery to relieve the pressure a herniated disc places on the spinal cord and nerves. Options include a discectomy to correct the problematic disc.


One type of discectomy — microscopic discectomy — is a minimally invasive procedure that allows your doctor to treat the spine without removing bone or muscle. The surgery uses small tools and an endoscope or tubular system with a camera lens that can magnify the spine.

Benefits of a microscopic discectomy include a smaller incision, a decreased need for pain medication, and a shorter recovery time.

Good candidates

Candidates for an microscopic discectomy are typically people in good health and at low risk of complications who’ve tried at-home treatments and other conservative interventions without finding relief. 

Difficulties walking or with bowel or bladder control might indicate surgery. You might also be a candidate if pain and other symptoms have lasted several weeks or more. 

The team might use imaging tests, such as MRI, CT scans, and/or spine X-rays, to help determine if an microscopic discectomy is right for you. 

Whether you suffer from a herniated disc or aren’t sure what’s causing your back pain, we can help you find relief. Call our convenient offices located in Pittsburgh, Washington, McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania,  or South Florida or request an appointment online today.

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