Lumbar Discectomy
in Tampa, FL

What is a lumbar discectomy?

A discectomy is a surgical procedure in which a damaged disc is “cut out.” The disc is removed by creating access through the bone that makes up the back of a vertebra. This part of the vertebrae is called the lamina. Discectomies may be performed as “open” surgery through a large incision or as a minimally-invasive procedure using various special instruments. The surgeon makes this determination based on the patient’s anatomical structure and needs. In some cases, a lumbar discectomy is combined with spinal fusion. This technique joins the vertebrae that had been separated by the disc that has been removed. The purpose of the fusion is to maximize the structural integrity of the spine.


People who are injured in a fall, a motor vehicle accident and even those who have had no known trauma can develop problems in the lower back. Individuals that mistakenly lift excessively or with the wrong body mechanics can also acutely injure themselves. Athletes in some sports will have a significant incidence of injuring the lumbar spine.


Injury to the lumbar spine will cause pain in the following areas:

  • Lower back
  • Buttocks
  • Weakness, tingling or numbness in the legs
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If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, a lumbar discectomy could be right for you.

Weakness that happens acutely is a very significant issue that should be investigated quickly. Loss of control of bowels or bladder, as well as loss of use/control of the lower extremities, signify an emergency.


By the time a disc is herniated, the presence of pain and other symptoms in the same region of the spine typically denote asymptomatic disc or discs. That person is frequently a candidate for the lumbar discectomy procedure at the levels of the herniated discs. Dr. Watson will assess your symptoms in his Tampa office before proposing the best treatment plan for lower back pain relief.


It is necessary to undergo an MRI to be able to see the lumbar discs as they are the primary cause of the symptoms.


The typical cause of nerve compression is either a disc herniation that narrows the neural foramen or exit point for a segmental nerve from the spinal canal. That compression can also occur because of the presence of bony prominences in the neural foramen typically growing off of the back of the vertebral bodies. There may also be compression by a facet complex that overgrows because of an injury or degenerative process. Nerve compression can only be determined by evidence seen on an MRI scan as similar symptoms can occur with the inflammatory process involved with a herniated disc.


This procedure is an option as are the other discectomy procedures. Most patients have several alternatives and the discectomy is just one. It is helpful for relieving much of the pain and other symptoms in the low back and legs. The procedure is not needed unless the patient has symptoms severe enough for that individual to desire some sort of significant intervention including surgery to relieve the symptoms. In that circumstance, the lumbar DND is a good option for many who would prefer not to undergo a more invasive discectomy and/or fusion.


The patient may have a breathing tube inserted into the trachea or windpipe if considered necessary for safety during the procedure. This is accomplished after the patient goes to sleep.

A Thulium laser is then used to treat the posterior annulus of each symptomatic herniated disc and potentially some bulging discs. The procedure places sufficient energy into the annulus to turn off the nociceptors or pain nerves, char the annulus and sometimes shrink the bulge or herniation as well as seal the blood vessels extending into the annulus. These vessels bring compounds to the disc that cause further inflammation and pain in the area. This procedure is what relieves much of the low back and even leg pain as well as weakness, tingling and numbness in the legs. Lumbar facets that are symptomatic can be treated at the end of this portion of the procedure.

Completion of the procedure commences by injection of antibiotics into the disc(s), removal of the needles from the disc(s) and then placing a sterile dressing over the needle insertion sites.


After being comfortably positioned on the operating table in the face-down position, the patient is given oxygen, connected to appropriate monitors and administered intravenous sedation to induce sleep.


Close-up of unrecognizable senior man having back pain while sitting in the living room. The Lumbar Discectomy and Neural Decompression Procedures are performed in a surgery center and typically is accomplished over the course of 75 minutes to 2 1/2 hours depending on the anatomy of the patient, the complexity of the pathology and how many discs are problematic.


After the procedure is completed, the patient is awakened and moved to the recovery room until discharge. The average time in the recovery room is about 1 hour.

Patient Testimonial

"I must write this review to say that after undergoing Dr. Watson's special procedure on My lower back, I am pain-free for more than 14 months so far... Dr. Watson first examined me, I was most impressed with how He was able to explain the nature of My injury in a way easy for Me to understand, and how He always ask if He can pray for Me each time I visit."

How long does it take to recover from a discectomy?

The traditional discectomy procedure is performed in a hospital. Patients may remain in the hospital for a few days, during which medical staff will help them move and begin to walk. In general, it can take from 1 to 4 weeks to recover from the surgical discectomy procedure. A patient’s general health, lifestyle, and underlying disc problem that had required care all contribute to how quickly they recover from their procedure. However, statistics show that most patients can return to work within 4 weeks of their discectomy surgery. Those with more strenuous occupations may need to take 8 to 12 weeks off before they can resume heavy lifting or other physically-demanding activities.

Results of a Lumbar Discectomy

Studies have shown that 80 to 90% of patients who undergo a lumbar discectomy achieve good results. The initial pain that is treated may not go away immediately and may not go away completely. The best results have been associated with patients who choose surgery to relieve moderate to severe pain in the leg caused by sciatica related to the damaged disc.

Male osteopath treating female patient with back problem in clinic - Indoors

How soon after a lumbar discectomy will I be able to drive?

Patients who undergo a lumbar discectomy can usually drive when they feel up to it. This may not occur until the patient is no longer taking narcotic pain medications and has been followed-up by their surgeon. The follow-up visit is usually scheduled 2 to 3 weeks after the discectomy.

Will my results be permanent?

While studies suggest that patients can regain a significant degree of comfort through discectomy surgery, it is unclear whether surgery eliminates the need for additional treatment later on. It is estimated that 5 to 15% of patients who have discectomy treatment experience a recurrent disc herniation at some point. This could be on the same side or the opposite side of the spinal column.

How to care for your back after surgery

After a discectomy procedure, patients are encouraged to practice good posture and proper body mechanics when exercising. Proper lifting techniques are also necessary to reduce stress on the spine. Exercise or physical therapy can assist patients with learning how to move their body in healthier, protective ways.

How to sleep after back surgery

People who have back surgery are often told that they can sleep however is comfortable. Ideally, patients will sleep on their backs or sides. Stomach sleeping is stressful on the spine. If you are a stomach-sleeper, your doctor may suggest placing a soft pillow under your stomach to relieve the disc spaces. When sleeping on the back, patients can elevate their upper torso, shoulders, and head with supportive pillows. A pillow or roll can also be placed under the knees. Side-sleeping may be most comfortable with a pillow between the knees.

How should I sit after lower back surgery?

Sitting puts pressure on the spine. After a discectomy, it may be advisable to avoid sitting in very soft chairs that place the hips below the knees. A doctor may recommend sitting in a normal dining chair or other firmer seat that maintains about a 90-degree angle at the hips and knees. It can also help to sit in chairs with arm supports that make it easier to stand up from the seated position.

A Portrait of a young man from above sleeping in a bed.

What are the risks of lumbar discectomy?

Every surgical procedure has risks. These generally include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve injury
  • Blood clots
  • Pain relief does not last


Schedule a consultation to learn more about Lumbar Discectomy. Contact us today at (813) 920-3022 to book an appointment with Dr. Stephen Watson at his Tampa office. We look forward to hearing from you.

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