What Is the Difference between Endoscopic vs. Microscopic Spine Surgery?

Spinal discs are elastic rings with soft material inside that serve as cushions between the vertebrae bones. When those discs become weakened, the soft tissue inside can become herniated. A herniated disc material can compress the nerves causing pain. In cases where a patient is suffering from herniated disc pain, a lumbar discectomy may be recommended as a treatment. The two standard options for outpatient lumbar discectomy are endoscopic and microscopic discectomy. Both procedures can help relieve pain from bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and sciatica.

How are Endoscopic and Microscopic Different?

While both procedures are considered minimally invasive, they are technically very different.

Microscopic Discectomy

A microscopic discectomy is technically an open surgery, which uses minimally invasive techniques. A microdiscectomy is performed through the back, with the patient lying down on their stomach. They will likely be under general anesthesia. A 1 to 1 ½ inch incision is made in the midline of the lower back. The back muscles are lifted off the bony arch of the spine and moved aside with a retractor. The surgeon can then enter the spine by removing a membrane over the nerve roots.

A small portion of the inside facet joint may be removed in some cases. Removing that small portion facilitates access to the nerve root and relieves any pressure or pinching on the nerve. Using small instruments, the surgeon goes under the nerve root and removes the fragments of the damaged disc material. Once the herniated disc is removed, the muscles are moved back into place, and the surgical incision is closed.

Endoscopic Discectomy

An endoscopic discectomy is technically quite different from a conventional microdiscectomy. For starters, a significantly smaller incision is made during endoscopic spine surgery. The incision is approximately 10 mm. The incision is made off to the side of the midline instead of directly over the affected disc.

The fragment is removed through an opening called neuroforamen rather than removing the bone to access the herniated disc. The nerves exit the spine through the neuroforamen, making it ideal for a small camera (endoscope) to access the damaged disc. Once the surgeon has eyes on the disc fragment, they can remove it to relieve the pressure of the affected area. Furthermore, this procedure can be performed without general anesthesia because of the small incision.

Hospital Stays for Endoscopic and Microscopic Discectomy

Both procedures are commonly done on an outpatient basis. Patients typically stay in the surgery center or hospital for a few hours before being released. An overnight hospital stay is not often required. Following the procedure, patients may quickly return to a relatively normal level of activities.

Find Spinal Pain Relief at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery

Nearly every adult in the U.S. has experienced back pain at least once in their life. When back pain becomes chronic, it can debilitate someone, causing them to call out of work or preventing them from being there for their families. At Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery, you will find an efficient facility and caring spine experts dedicated to helping our patients find pain relief.  Our surgeons are leaders in their fields who will provide you with personalized care and help you regain your quality of life with the least invasive treatments possible. You can schedule an appointment using our contact form or by calling (855) 853-6542.