Laminectomy Back Surgery

Laminectomy back surgery, also referred to as lumbar laminectomy is a minimally invasive operation performed on the lower spine to relieve pressure on one or more nerve roots. The term laminectomy is derived from lumbar which means lower spine, lamina (part of the spinal canal’s bony roof) and ectomy (removal). As with any surgery, there are risks to consider. Some risks associated with laminectomy include:

  • Nerve root damage: This happens in about 1 in 1,000 patients. Paralysis is extremely unusual.
  • Infections: Any infections acquired during surgery can usually be cleared with another surgery and IV antibiotics where it will be managed and effectively cured.
  • Bleeding: Since there are no major blood vessels in that area this is uncommon. Blood clots may also occur during surgery.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak: A cerebrospinal fluid leak can occur if the dural sac is breached but this generally does not change the outcome of the surgery.
  • Worsening of the back pain: Surgery is generally undergone as a last resort when dealing with back pain. There are cases when back pain has gotten worse instead of improving after surgical treatment.

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Laminectomy back surgery takes 1-3 hours and is performed while the patient is laying on his/her abdomen or side. A small incision is made in the lower back. After, a retractor is used to pull aside fat and muscle to expose the lamina. Part of it is then cut away to uncover the ligament that supports the spinal column, the ligamentum flavum. An opening is then cut in the ligamentum flavum to reveal the compressed nerve and the nerve fibers. The cause of compression can often be detected at this point whether it is a herniated, ruptured, bulging disc or a bone spur. The doctor pulls the nerve root back toward the center of the spinal column and removes part of or the entire disc. There are cases when a fragment of disc has moved from the proper position and has pressed on the nerve root as it attempts to leave the spinal cord. The doctor then closes the incision and the affected area is now protected by back muscles.

In recovering from a laminectomy you are encouraged to lie on your side and back. Expect some pain and use pain relieving medication as directed. You should begin to walk within hours are the surgery. Some breathing exercises may be administered before commencing to walk. When maneuvering please be sure to protect your back at all times. Sleeping may be difficult for the first few nights. Remember to sleep on your back with your head and neck supported by pillows. Tighten abdominal muscles when attempting to rise, lie down or roll over. When lying on your side, keep knees bent slightly and divided by a pillow.

It is recommended that you do not drive a car for 1-2 weeks after surgery or while on pain meds. If your line of work is sedentary you may consider returning to your job in 1-2 weeks. Please keep in mind that surgery is a last resort and should only be considered after all other options are exhausted.

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Filed Under: Miscellaneous
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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