What is a lumbar microdiscectomy?
Between each vertebra in the spine is a kidney shaped intervertebral disc. These allow for motion and serve as shock absorbers. There are two main components to a disc. The outer fibrous ring is called the annulus fibrosus and contains layers of fibrocartilage and collagen. The inner portion of the disc is called the nucleus pulposus and is made of loose fibers in a mucoprotein gel. The inner portion has a very similar look and feel to crab meat. With time our discs naturally lose water (desiccate). Repetitive bending & twisting and/or trauma to the spine can cause shear stresses across the discs resulting in breakdown of the outer fibrous rings. This can cause tears in the outer ring of the disc (annular tears). The inner portion of the disc is normally attached to the ends of the vertebrae. However, due to degeneration of the disc or trauma the inner disc can become loose. If this occurs in the setting of tears in the outer part of the disc, the inner disc can squeeze out of the disc space and compress nerves. Technically, this is called a herniated nucleus pulposus. However, it is often called a ruptured disc, slipped disc, or herniated disc.