Studies comparing the relative merits of microdiscectomy and standard discectomy report conflicting results, depending on the outcome measure of interest. Most trials are small, and few have employed validated, multidimensional patient-orientated outcome measures, considered essential in outcomes research. In the present study, data were collected prospectively from six surgeons participating in a surgical registry. Inclusion criteria were: lumbar/lumbosacral degenerative disease; discectomy/sequestrectomy without additional fusion/stabilisation; German or English-speaking. Before and 3 and 12 months after surgery, patients completed the Core Outcome Measures Index comprising questions on leg/buttock pain, back pain, back-related function, symptom-specific well-being, general quality-of-life, and social and work disability. At follow-up, they rated overall satisfaction, global outcome, and perceived complications. Compliance with the registry documentation was excellent: 87% for surgeons (surgery forms), 91% for patients (for 12 months follow-up). 261 patients satisfied the inclusion criteria (225 microdiscectomy, 36 standard discectomy). The standard discectomy group had significantly greater blood-loss than the microdiscectomy (P < 0.05). There were no group differences in the proportion of surgical complications or duration of hospital stay (P > 0.05). The groups did not differ in relation to any of the patient-orientated outcomes or individual outcome domains (P > 0.05). Though not equivalent to an RCT, the study included every single eligible patient in our Spine Center and allowed surgeons to use their regular procedure; it hence had extremely high external validity (relevance/generalisability). There was no clinically relevant difference in outcome after lumbar disc excision dependent on the use of the microscope. The decision to use the microscope should rest with the surgeon.