Since November 1988, 28 patients with lumbar L5 radiculopathy refractory to conservative care and with a radiologically verified central or mediolateral disc herniation at the level of L4/L5 had had a percutaneous discectomy. Radiological verification consisted of spinal CT +/- myelography, +/- myelo-CT, +/- MRI. A short-term follow-up analysis of at least 2 months taking the clinical and functional status as well as the professional reintegration into account revealed a 64.3% (18/28 patients) satisfactory outcome and a 32.1% (10/28 patients) failure rate. Of the latter 28.6% (8/28 patients) required further open surgery. One patient whose pain had only partially in regressed was shown at open operation to have a sequestered cranial prolapse as revealed by spinal CT after the percutaneous procedure. There were no major complications. One patient developed a sequestered extraforaminal herniation through the nucleotomy canal three weeks after the procedure. One patient bled for 2 minutes. There were no major vessel injuries. One patient reported local muscular pain, and enhanced nerve root pain after introduction of the trocar sleeve.