Lumbar Laminectomy

Why you may need a lumbar laminectomy

A lumbar laminectomy is performed to alleviate back and leg pain caused by a condition called lumbar spinal stenosis. Lumbar spinal stenosis develops when the disk degenerates, osteophytes (bone spurs develop) and facet joints enlarge narrowing the spinal cord resulting in pinching the spinal nerves.

Performing a lumbar laminectomy can address years of degeneration in your spine, reduce the pressure on your nerves, and allow you to walk better, longer, and with less back and leg pain.

How to best prepare for surgery

The important thing to remember is that a lumbar laminectomy is only one component of maintaining good back health. Remaining fit, avoiding tobacco and continuing with physical therapy when needed, are equally crucial factors to the success of your surgery.

What happens during a lumbar laminectomy

In order to locate the precise location of the compressed nerves, fluroscopy is used to determine where the spinal canal needs to be enlarged, a skin incision will be made. The surgeon will carefully move the spinal muscles away from the spine at the exact location of the pinched nerves. The surgeon may use magnifying loupes or an operating microscopy for more accurate visualization.

Once visible, the surgeon will begin to decompress the pinched nerves by removing all or parts of the surrounding tissues, ligaments, facet joints, and lamina (bones covering the spinal nerves) that have degenerated and compressed the nerves- the source of your pain. Depending on the severity, the surgeon may use various drills and bone cutting instruments to properly excise osteophytes (bone spurs) and perform a foramenotomy (process of removing bone to increase the size of the nerve root window). Once the spinal canal has been enlarged, the spinal muscles will be returned to their normal location, and the incision closed. You’re one step closer to recovery!

In the event that extensive tissue has been removed, a drain will be inserted to minimize post-operation swelling, and removed one to three days following surgery. Whether or not you will require a hospital stay depends on the complexity of the surgery, but generally most patients will be observed for 23 hours with some patients staying up to three days.