11 Things to Know About Laminectomy

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • Slide 1: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    1. A laminectomy procedure removes a bony area of the spine called the lamina.
    The lamina is the solid back part the vertebrae, the stacked bones that make up your your spine. The lamina forms the back wall of your spinal canal. Your spinal cord runs through your spinal canal in the center of your vertebrae. Pressure on the nerves that exit the spinal cord can cause pain and other problems. A laminectomy relieves pressure on the nerves by opening up your spinal canal. Working closely with your doctor will ensure a successful laminectomy recovery
  • Slide 2: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    2. There are four types of laminectomy procedure.
    A cervical laminectomy takes out lamina in vertebral bones of the neck (cervical spine). A thoracic laminectomy takes out lamina in the middle of the back (thoracic spine). A lumbar laminectomy takes out lamina in the lower back (lumbar spine). A sacral laminectomy takes out lamina in the back between your hipbones (sacral spine).
  • Slide 3: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    3. A laminectomy procedure treats conditions that compress the spinal cord.
    A laminectomy procedure treats conditions that compress the spinal cord, causing pain, numbness, weakness, trouble walking, and other problems. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column. Bone spurs are abnormal bony growths on the spine. Degenerative disc disease is breakdown of the cushioning discs between the vertebrae. A herniated disc is the displacement of a disc. Sciatica is pain that runs down the buttock and leg due to a compressed nerve.
  • Slide 4: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    4. Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform laminectomies.
    An orthopedic surgeon is trained to treat problems of the bones and joints. A neurosurgeon is trained to treat problems of the brain and nerves. Both types of surgeons perform surgery and prescribe other treatments. Let Healthgrades help you find a specialist in your area.
  • Slide 5: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    4. You’ll need several preoperative tests to prepare for surgery.
    You will need blood tests, X-rays, and other tests in the weeks before surgery. Be sure to tell your surgeon about your allergies, medications, and full medical history. Your doctor will give you guidelines about taking medications and when to stop all food and drink the night before your surgery. You will also likely stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners before surgery.
  • Slide 6: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    6. Be prepared to discuss your medical history the day of surgery.
    Once in the hospital on the day of your surgery, you can expect to sign a surgical consent, remove all clothing and jewelry, and dress in a hospital gown. You will talk with the surgical team about your medical history. Your surgery team will start an IV. You will have general anesthesia so you do not feel pain. They will also attach wires and possibly some tubes that control and monitor your vital signs and body functions. You will not feel this or remember the surgery. Your care team will keep you comfortable during this process.
  • Slide 7: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    7. A laminectomy procedure is either an open or minimally invasive surgery.
    Open surgery removes the lamina though a large incision in your back or neck. A microlaminectomy removes the lamina through small incisions using miniature instruments designed for minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery is generally less painful and has a faster recovery than open surgery. The type of surgery you have depends on your age, diagnosis, medical history, and general health.
  • Slide 8: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    8. Your surgeon will give you pain medicine and a pain control plan.
    Talk to your surgeon about your pain control plan. Laminectomy recovery involves some discomfort, but your care team will keep you comfortable. Call your doctor if you are following your pain control plan but you are still experiencing pain. You should also call if your pain gets worse or changes, because it can be a sign of a complication.
  • Slide 9: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    9. Complications are possible during and after a laminectomy procedure.
    As with all surgeries, there are some possible risks involved with a laminectomy, including bleeding, a blood clot, infection, and anesthesia reaction. You can also have little to no pain relief and ongoing symptoms. Weakness, numbness or pain due to nerve and blood vessel damage can also occur. Ask your doctor about your risks how you can reduce them by following your recovery plan.
  • Slide 10: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    10. Expect to start walking around while you are still in the hospital.
    You will stay briefly in the recovery room after surgery. Your care team will probably get you up and walking as soon as you are alert. You may go home the same day or stay in the hospital up to four days, depending on your condition. Your surgeon will prescribe a course of physical therapy to help you recover. Full recovery takes 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Slide 11: Quick Facts About Laminectomy
    11. You can prevent more spine problems with ongoing physical therapy.
    A laminectomy can relieve back and leg pain and other symptoms so you can lead an active, independent lifestyle. However, a laminectomy will not reverse permanent nerve damage. You can help prevent more spine problems by following your surgeon’s advice and going to physical therapy. You will get specific instructions about how to move, walk, sit, stand, and exercise. You should also maintain a healthy weight and use good posture and proper body mechanics when lifting.
11 Things to Know About a Laminectomy Procedure
  1. Eidelson SG, Fessler RG, Garfin SR, et al. Save Your Aching Back and Neck: A Patient’s Guide. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: SYA Press and Research Inc.; 2002:76-80. 
  2. Laminectomy. Mayo Clinic.  http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/laminectomy/basics/definition/prc-20009521
  3. Spinal Decompression: Laminectomy and Laminotomy. Mayfield Clinic and Spine Institute. http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/pdf/pe-decompression.pdf
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 24
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