Back or neck pain that interferes
with normal daily activities may need surgery for treatment. Laminectomy is a type of
surgery in which a surgeon removes part or all of the vertebral bone (lamina). This
helps ease pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots that may be caused by injury,
herniated disk, narrowing of the canal (spinal stenosis), or tumors. A laminectomy is
considered only after other medical treatments have not worked.
Low back or neck pain can range
from mild, dull, and annoying to persistent, severe, and disabling. Pain in the spine
can restrict your ability to move and function. Laminectomy may be done to ease pressure
on the spinal nerves, treat a disk problem, or remove a tumor from the spine.
One common reason for having a laminectomy is a herniated disk in the spine.
A disk may be displaced or damaged
because of injury or wear and tear. When the disk presses on the spinal nerves, this
causes pain, and sometimes numbness or weakness. The numbness or weakness will be felt
in the body part where the nerve is involved, often the arms or legs. The most common
symptom of a herniated disk is sciatica. This is a sharp, shooting pain along the
sciatic nerve, extending from the buttocks to the thigh and down the back of the
If medical treatments no longer
work, surgery may be a choice. Some medical treatments for pain may include:
Laminectomy is usually done for
back or neck pain that continues after medical treatment. Or it is done when the pain is
accompanied by symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or weakness in the arms or
legs. Loss of bowel or bladder control from pressure in the cervical or lumbar spine
also usually needs surgery.
There may be other reasons for your healthcare provider to recommend a laminectomy.
As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur. Some possible complications may include:
Nerve or blood vessels in the area
of surgery may be injured. This can cause weakness or numbness. The pain may not be
eased by the surgery or may become worse, although this is rare.
There may be other risks depending
on your specific health condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare
provider before the surgery.
Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the surgery.
A laminectomy usually requires a stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor’s practices.
A laminectomy may be done while you
are asleep under general anesthesia. Or it may be done while you are awake under spinal
anesthesia. If spinal anesthesia is used, you will have no feeling from your waist down.
Newer techniques are being developed that may allow a laminectomy to be done under local
anesthesia as an outpatient. Your doctor will discuss this with you in advance.
Generally, a laminectomy follows this process:
After the surgery, you will be
taken to the recovery room for observation. Once your blood pressure, pulse, and
breathing are stable and you are alert, you will be taken to your hospital room.
Laminectomy usually requires that you stay in the hospital one or more days.
You will most likely start
getting out of bed and walking the evening of your surgery. Your pain will be
controlled with medicines so that you can take part in the exercise. You may be given
an exercise plan to follow both in the hospital and after discharge.
Once you are at home, it's
important to keep the surgical incision area clean and dry. Your healthcare provider
will give you specific bathing instructions. The surgical staples or stitches are
removed during a follow-up office visit.
Take a pain reliever for
soreness as recommended by your healthcare provider. Aspirin or certain other pain
medicines may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended
Tell your healthcare provider
about any of the following:
Don't drive until your
healthcare provider tells you it's OK. Don't bend over to pick up objects or arch
your back. Your provider may tell you to limit other activities.
Your healthcare provider may
give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
What results to expect and what they mean
What the possible side effects or complications are
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
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