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A laminectomy is a type of back surgery used to relieve compression on the spinal cord. During the procedure, your doctor will remove the lamina. The lamina is part of the bone that forms the vertebral arch in the spine. Your doctor will also remove bone spurs. These structures can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This can cause:
A laminectomy is only used if your symptoms interfere with daily life. It’s performed when less invasive treatments have failed.
This surgery is also called:
A laminectomy is often done to relieve the effects of spinal stenosis. In this condition, your spinal column narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. Spinal stenosis may be caused by:
Tell your doctor if you:
Before the surgery, your doctor may ask you to:
You should arrange for someone to pick you up and take you home after the surgery. You may also need to arrange for someone to help you around the house while you heal.
A laminectomy is performed while you’re under anesthesia. You’ll be asleep during the procedure if you have general anesthesia or you’ll be awake if you have spinal anesthesia. Either way, you will feel no pain during the procedure. Your anesthesiologist will monitor you throughout the surgery.
During the surgery, your surgeon will:
During the procedure, your surgeon may also perform a spinal fusion, in which two or more bones are connected in the back to better stabilize the spine. Your surgeon may also perform a foraminotomy to widen the area where the nerve roots go through the spine.
A laminectomy usually takes one to three hours.
The risks of spine surgery include:
The general risks of surgery include:
When you wake up after surgery, your doctor will probably ask you to get up and walk around a bit (unless you had a spinal fusion). You’ll probably stay in the hospital for one to three days, but this procedure can sometimes be done on an outpatient basis.
While you’re recovering, you should:
While showering, you shouldn’t scrub over the incision site. Don’t apply any lotions or creams near the incision. Avoid bathtubs, hot tubs, and swimming pools until your doctor says otherwise. These can all increase your risk of infection.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to take care of your wound.
Call your doctor immediately if you have any of the following:
A laminectomy will often relieve many symptoms of spinal stenosis. However, it can’t prevent spine problems in the future and it may not completely relieve pain in everyone.
People who also have a spinal fusion are more likely to have spinal problems in the future.
Written by: Natalie Phillips
Medically reviewed on: Jan 20, 2016: William A Morrison MD
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