Back pain that interferes with normal daily activities may require surgery for treatment. Laminectomy is a type of surgery in which a surgeon removes part or all of the vertebral bone (lamina). This helps relieve compression of the spinal cord or the nerve roots that may be caused by injury, herniated disk, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal), or tumors. A laminectomy is considered only after medical treatments have proven to be ineffective.
Low back pain can range from mild, dull, annoying pain, to persistent, severe, and disabling pain. Pain in the lower back can restrict your ability to move and function. Laminectomy may be done to relieve 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 (generally, a sharp, shooting pain along the sciatic nerve, extending from the buttocks to the thigh and down the back of the leg).
If medical treatments are no longer effective, back surgery may be a choice. Some medical treatments for back pain may include:
Laminectomy is usually done for back pain that continues after medical treatment, or when the back pain is accompanied by symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or weakness in the legs.
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, resulting in weakness or numbness. The pain may not be relieved by the surgery or may become worse, although this is rare.
There may be other risks depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider 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 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 on an outpatient basis. 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 a hospital stay of one or more days.
You will most likely begin getting out of bed and walking the evening of your surgery. Your pain will be controlled with medicines so that you can participate 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 is 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 medicines.
Notify your healthcare provider to report any of the following:
You should not drive until your healthcare provider tells you to. You should avoid bending over to pick up objects or arching your back. Other activity restrictions may apply.
Your healthcare provider may give you additional or alternate instructions after the procedure, depending on your particular situation.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
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