Posterior Lumbar Decompression/Discectomy

Contact Us

Orthopaedic & Spine Centre, Mater Private Network, St. Raphael's House, 81-84 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin 1, D01 KX02 1800 38 52 85 Outside ROI +353 (0)1 882 2617

Please note that a referral letter is required before an appointment can be confirmed.

Orthopaedic & Spine Centre, Mater Private Network, Citygate, Mahon, Cork, T12 K199 021 601 3365

Please note that a referral letter is required before an appointment can be confirmed.

Useful Information

About the service

Decompression and discectomy (surgery is performed to remove a damaged or herniated disc in the lower spine) are surgical procedures performed to alleviate pain caused by pinched nerves.

Lumbar decompression is only recommended when non-surgical treatments (i.e physiotherapy, targeted injections) have not helped to eliminate the pain a patient is suffering.

Surgery aims to improve symptoms such as persistent pain (sciatica) and numbness (tingling, paraesthesia) in the legs caused by pressure on the nerves in the spine.


Posterior lumbar decompression surgery is often used to treat:

  • Spinal stenosis – narrowing of a section of the spinal column, which puts pressure on the nerves inside
  • A (herniated) slipped disc and sciatica – where a damaged spinal disc presses down on an underlying nerve
  • Bony overgrowth (wear and tear) causing lower-limb radiculopathy
  • If a patient has a cyst on the spinal canal this may also cause sciatica which may need surgery.

What to expect

There are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself for spinal surgery.

In the weeks before your surgery, it is advisable to eat a balanced diet as this can help the healing process.

If you smoke, stop as far in advance of surgery as possible. Smoking can delay or interfere with healing and may cause complications with the anaesthetic.

Pre-operative assessment clinic

Within one month (ten days - one week) of your surgery, you may be invited to attend the pre-operative assessment clinic. During this visit you will be asked about your medical history and any medications you are taking.

You will have blood tests done and may have an electrocardiogram (ECG) and x-ray. This is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have and plan for your discharge from hospital.

During surgery, a small proportion of the bone (overgrowth) and/or disc material near the nerve root is removed to give the nerve root more space. 

Modern surgery is less invasive which means it does very little damage to the muscles and ligaments, resulting in better, faster healing. Most patients get good relief from sciatica after surgery. Many people also find their back pain is improved, however, some may continue to have back symptoms.

When your surgery is completed, you will be moved to the recovery room where you will be observed and monitored by a nurse until you awake from the anaesthesia. You will then be transferred to a ward where the ward team will work closely with you to aid your recovery.

  • You will have a drip for intravenous fluids through a vein into your arm or hand which will continue for a number of hours after your surgery.
  • You may eat when you are fully awake but we advise that you start with sips of water then a light meal.
  • You may also have a catheter inserted into your bladder to make urination easier.
  • There may be a drain tube in your back which is normally taken out the day after surgery.
  • There is usually some level of pain following spinal surgery and the anaesthetist and nurses will work closely with you to manage your pain.

A physiotherapist/nurse will get you out of bed and on your feet within a few hours after surgery. This is not only safe, it is the best way to get your muscles moving and prevent post-operative complications.

Patients are often at increased risk of falls after surgery and we advise you to read our patient guidelines on falls prevention.

Find out more

What to Expect: Spinal Surgery

Learn more

Understanding Your Spine

Learn more