What is a laminectomy?
A laminectomy is the removal of a piece of vertebra (backbone) called the lamina. The vertebrae are stacked atop one another and collectively make up the spine. There is a hollow space in each vertebra through that the spinal cord passes through in a space known as the spinal canal.
Sometimes, the lamina develops bony overgrowths known as bone spurs, and these bone spurs can narrow the spinal canal. A narrow spinal canal can cause pressure on the various nerves that originate from the spinal cord. A laminectomy removes the lamina and thereby opens up space in the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the nerves.
What does a laminectomy treat?
A laminectomy can treat certain types of back pain. Back pain is one of the most common conditions in the U.S. and the world, and it has a large number of potential causes. One of the most common reasons for a laminectomy is a herniated disc, which occurs when an intervertebral disc (which acts like a shock absorber for the spine) bulges and presses on a nearby nerve or nerve root. A laminectomy can give the disc more room and alleviate pressure on the nerve/nerve root.
Other conditions a laminectomy can treat can include:
- Trauma to the spine that results in swelling and pressure
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal
- Spinal tumors that encroach upon nerve/nerve roots
Who is a candidate for laminectomy?
A laminectomy is usually recommended only when more conservative treatments have failed, such as:
- Activity modification
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Corticosteroid injections
- Physical therapy
Candidates for laminectomy will likely have tried one or more of these treatments, without pain relief. Additionally, people who are good candidates for laminectomies have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- More pain in the limbs than in the back
- Pain, weakness or tingling in the arms or legs
How is a laminectomy performed?
Most laminectomies are performed on either the lumbar spine (low back) or cervical spine (neck). A surgeon will make an incision over the vertebra in question, move the muscles or go around them and remove the lamina. If the surgeon is performing a laminectomy as part of a larger procedure, he or she may remove a portion of a bulging disc, reposition a slipped disc or insert a bone graft for spinal fusion.
A laminectomy can be done as an open procedure or as a minimally invasive procedure. During an open procedure, the surgeon will make an incision near the vertebra so he or she can both see the area and operate on it. In a minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon will use smaller incisions, smaller tools and a camera.
Minimally invasive laminectomies have a number of advantages over open procedures:
- A lowered risk of needing a second surgery
- Higher patient satisfaction
- Less pain
- Reduced blood loss
- Shorter hospital stays
What is recovery like following a laminectomy?
In some cases, a laminectomy may be a same-day procedure, meaning the patient may leave the hospital or surgery center within 24 hours of the operation. In other cases, a brief hospital stay may be necessary.
Many patients can return to work and other activities within a few weeks. More strenuous jobs and activities may need to be avoided longer. Most patients report a decrease in pain—especially pain that radiates through the arms or legs—after a laminectomy.
Where to Get a Laminectomy
At Neurosurgical Associates of Central Jersey, our experienced surgeons are experts in minimally invasive spine procedures like laminectomies. We employ the only the latest cutting-edge tools and techniques available. If you are experiencing back or radiating pain and or are told you need a laminectomy, contact us today to discuss your options.