What to Expect After Your Lumbar Microdiscectomy
This handout explains what a microdiscectomy is and what to expect after surgery.
What is a microdiscectomy?
This back surgery is performed to remove a
herniated disc (which is a problem with one
of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the
individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to
make your spine. A herniated disc can
irritate nearby nerves and cause pain,
numbness or weakness in the arms or legs.
Preparing for Surgery
Please refer to your booklet “Having
Surgery at UW Hospital” for general
To prevent constipation after surgery
read these instructions:
ξ Please begin taking a stool softener
two days before surgery. We
recommend the stool softener called
Docusate with Senna-take this with
at least 8 ounces of water.
ξ Do not take any fiber or stool
softener on the morning of surgery
Most people who have a discectomy will
leave the hospital the same day. You will
need to arrange to have someone spend 24-
48 hours with you when you return home.
What to Expect After Surgery
To help decrease pain in your back
ξ Change positions often
ξ Use heat or ice on your lower back.
If you use ice cover the ice pack with
a cloth and apply for 20 minutes per
ξ Take pain medicines as prescribed
ξ Do not lift more than 10 pounds.
Your doctor will tell you when you
can lift more
ξ No pushing or pulling motions
ξ No bending or twisting
ξ Sit for only short periods of time for
the first 2 weeks
ξ Sexual activity can be resumed after
ξ You may drive when you are no
longer taking narcotic pain pills.
Limit driving to short trips and
slowly increase your driving time.
You may need to make plans to be off 2-6
weeks depending on the work you do.
Heavy lifting may not be allowed for 12
weeks. Check with your doctor before
returning to work.
When you are home, you may take
Docusate with Senna twice a day while you
are on the narcotic pain medicine. If you do
not have a bowel movement within two days
or beyond your normal routine, take Milk of
Magnesia (6 teaspoons two to three times a
day) until you have a bowel movement. Use
food like prunes or prune juice instead of the
Milk of Magnesia. Be sure to drink several
8- ounce glasses of water or juice daily. This
ensures that your body has enough fluids
with the medicine.
Your incision may be closed with stitches,
metal staples, plastic strips of tape called
Steri- Strips, or Dermabond skin adhesive
Once the incision is healed, use sun screen
for the next year to avoid the incision
turning dark in color.
Important Phone Numbers
Neurosurgery Clinic, is open Monday-
Friday, 8:00- 5:00pm, and can be reached at
After hours, this number will be forwarded
to the paging operator. You will need to ask
for the doctor who is on call for your doctor
If you live out of the area, please call
1-800-323-8942 and ask for the
Reasons to Call Your Doctor
ξ Severe or increasing pain
ξ New weakness
ξ Concerns with your incision such as
increased redness, swelling, or
You should remove the dressing that was
placed in surgery, 3 days after surgery.
Under the dressing you will have the Steri-
Strips, skin glue, sutures or staples.
Please follow the instructions in your
discharge packet for incision care.
Do not take tub baths until instructed to do
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing HF#4455.