A laminectomy, or decompression surgery, is a surgical procedure during which the lamina, which is the flattened part of the vertebrae that forms the roof of the spinal canal, is removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. It is generally a last resort procedure after medication, physical therapy, and/or injections have been unsuccessful.

During this procedure, the surgeon creates an incision in the middle of the patient’s back that may be as long as five inches. Bones, bone spurs, muscles, and ligaments are removed so that the lamina can be subsequently removed. Thereafter, the nerve roots will have more room to grow and pain associated with the previous compression is generally relieved.

Need for Laminectomies

Laminectomies are necessary to treat a variety of underlying heath conditions. Everyday wear and tear on the human body can lead to narrowing of the spinal canal, which is referred to as spinal stenosis. This condition generally puts pressure on the nerves within the spine and the spinal cord.Spinal stenosis can cause bowel and bladder control issues, pain, and muscle weakness. In serious cases, a laminectomy can be necessary to treat spinal stenosis.

Overgrowths of bone in the spinal canal can also limit the space for the spinal cord or nerves. As a result, a laminectomy may be necessary to relieve the pain, weakness, and numbing, that occurs down a person’s arms and/or legs caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal.

A laminectomy can also serve to repair a herniated disc, which occurs when spinal discs are weak or tear because of heavy lifting, everyday use, carrying excessive weight, twisting, or a sedentary lifestyle.

Risks of a Laminectomy

Given that a laminectomy is a type of spinal surgery, it is a serious procedure. Following this procedure, an infection may develop at the site of the surgery or in the vertebrae. To reduce the chance of developing an infection, it is important the follow the medical professional’s advice on cleaning the surgical site and changing the bandages covering the site once released from the hospital.

The surgery could also fail to be successful or result in damage to the spinal nerve. Additionally, like  any other surgical procedure, there is a risk blood loss, blood clots, negative reactions to medication, breathing difficulties, heart attack, or a stroke.

To decrease the chances of suffering any of the aforementioned conditions, it is important to be honest with your physician about your habits and lifestyle before surgery. Implement any recommended changes in your diet or routine as suggested by your doctor. This will improve the chances of a successful recovery or limit the chances of setbacks during surgery.

Post-Laminectomy Surgery

After a laminectomy, a patient’s mobility is typically impacted by their general condition prior to the surgery. This may be dictated by the patient’s age. Doctors may encourage patients to walk immediately after a laminectomy in some cases. However, it is commonly advised to avoid lifting, stooping, and/or twisting after a stenosis surgery in order to avoid accidently reopening the incision.

Patients are typically encouraged to begin a light exercise routine and physical therapy soon after laminectomies. Following the surgery, a patient should follow the advice of his or her surgeon. Medical advice is not based solely on common practices, but a patient’s specific needs, age, and condition.