Four Facts Patients Should Know About Microdiscectomies

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Orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Hooman M. Melamed of the DISC Sports & Spine Center, discusses surgery need, patient health, process and recovery.

...when they wake up, they can’t believe the pain is gone.

Every year, millions of Americans suffer herniated discs that—if left untreated—may cause excruciating pain and further damage to the spine. The microdiscectomy, one of the most commonly performed spine surgeries, is a safe, effective option for those patients who have not responded to more conservative therapies. In fact, up to 95% of microdiscectomies performed relieve pain almost immediately, according to orthopedic spine surgeon, Hooman M. Melamed, of DISC Sports & Spine Center.

“I’ve had patients come to me before their operations on morphine and OxyContin, some of the most powerful medications out there,” he explains. “But when they wake up, they can’t believe the pain is gone, and—with it—the need for such narcotics.”

Benefits aside, Dr. Melamed cautions that microdiscectomies aren’t for everyone, and that patients should do their homework before choosing to have any surgery. He also shares these facts for anyone considering a microdiscectomy:

Surgery Need – Provided that patients have already exhausted conservative therapies such as chiropractic treatments or a very thorough physical therapy program including Pilates, yoga, acupuncture, pain management and time, there are only two reasons to have a microdiscectomy: 1) unbearable, disabling pain and/or 2) progressive neurologic deficit such as weakness or numbness that is getting worse.

Patient Health – Microdiscectomies are most effective for active, healthy patients of normal weight. Those who are heavier and/or diabetic run a greater chance at re-herniation, and smoking is extremely detrimental to healing of the disc because it kills the blood supply. Dr. Melamed asks his patients to quit smoking before he’ll agree to operate.

Process – The microscope is key to this operation, not just in its success, but in its minimally invasive microsurgical manner. The incision itself—typically no more than an inch long—is made with the microscope, which is able to very intricately navigate the ligaments, muscle and bone in order to remove the disc fragments causing nerve compression and pain. Blood loss is usually no more than a teaspoon.

Recovery – After a 30-minute-to-hour-long morning surgery, patients are usually walking and return home within a few hours. In a few days, Dr. Melamed allows them to go to work if they do desk work. They are allowed to drive after five or six days, and he doesn’t let them lift anything more than 10 pounds for the first few weeks. After that, it depends on a number of things, like the extent of the disc tear and condition before surgery. Patients must be engaged in a very strong rehab program after to protect their spine. Patients are able to return to their sports in half the time required for other surgeries (ACL, shoulder, etc.).

About DISC Sports & Spine Center
DISC Sports & Spine Center (DISC) is one of America’s foremost providers of minimally invasive spine procedures and advanced microscopic techniques. DISC’s highly specialized physicians apply both established and innovative solutions to diagnose, treat and rehabilitate their patients in a one-stop, multi-disciplinary setting. With a wide range of specialists under one roof, the result is an unmatched continuity of care with more efficiency, less stress for the patient and a zero MRSA infection rate. DISC’s ambulatory surgery centers include Diagnostic and Interventional Surgical Center (Marina Del Rey) and DISC Surgery Center at Newport Beach. Both are accredited by the AAAHC and are located within minutes of major airports with reasonably priced hotels nearby, which is very convenient for out-of-town patients. DISC is also the official medical services provider for Red Bull and a proud partner of the LA Kings. For more information, contact 866-481-DISC, or visit

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Garrett Bray
D.I.S.C. Sports and Spine Center
since: 09/2010
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