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) to 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.
Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose back problems include CT scan, X-ray, MRI, electromyogram (EMG), and myelogram.
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Low back pain can range from mild, dull, annoying pain, to persistent, severe, and disabling pain. Pain in the lower back can keep you from moving and get in the way of your daily life. Laminectomy may be needed 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 moved 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. Sciatica is a sharp, shooting pain along the sciatic nerve which runs from the buttocks to the thigh and down the back of the leg.
If medical treatments don’t help, back surgery may be a good option. Laminectomy is usually done when 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 health care provider to recommend a laminectomy.
Before your laminectomy, you should receive detailed instructions on how to prepare from your surgeon’s staff during one of your office visits. Here’s what you should do and plan for before the surgery:
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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 performed 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:
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Diskectomy is a surgical procedure to remove the damaged portion of a herniated disk in your spine. A herniated disk can irritate or compress nearby nerves. Diskectomy is most effective for treating pain that radiates down your arms or legs.
The procedure is less helpful for treating actual back pain or neck pain. Most people who have back pain or neck pain find relief with more-conservative treatments, such as physical therapy.
Your doctor may suggest diskectomy if conservative, nonsurgical treatments haven’t worked or if your symptoms worsen. There are several ways to perform a diskectomy. Many surgeons now prefer minimally invasive diskectomy, which uses small incisions and a tiny video camera for viewing the procedure.
Why it’s done
A diskectomy is performed to relieve the pressure a herniated disk (also called a slipped, ruptured or bulging disk or disk prolapse) places on a spinal nerve. A herniated disk occurs when some of the softer material inside the disk pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
Your doctor may recommend diskectomy if:
Laminectomy is a common but major surgery with significant risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options available. Consider getting a second opinion about all of your treatment choices before having a laminectomy.
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It depends on the extent of your surgery and your situation. After a minor (decompressive) laminectomy, you can usually able do desk work and light housekeeping within a few days to a few weeks. If you also had spinal fusion, your recovery time will likely be longer, 2-4 months. You may not be able to lift and bend for 2-3 months. Start light walking for exercise and physical therapy exercises as soon as your doctor says you’re ready. This will help speed your recovery.
You may not know if your back pain is better until 6 weeks or more after the surgery.
Laminectomy is generally a safe procedure. But as with any surgery, complications may occur. Laminectomy has about an 80 percent success rate at improving walking abilities.
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