Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
A laminectomy is a surgery to remove a small portion of a vertebra called the lamina. Vertebrae are the bones of the spine. The lamina is a small tall like portion on the rear of the vertebra.
In some cases, only a portion of the lamina is removed from the vertebra. This procedure is known as laminotomy.
A laminectomy is usually done to help take pressure off your spinal cord or a nerve running out from your spinal cord. It is also done to gain access to the spinal cord, bones, and discs that are below the lamina. Herniated discs, bony spurs, or other problems can cause narrowing of the canals that the nerves and spinal cord run through. This can irritate the nerve if it gets too narrow. Often, a laminectomy is done along with a disc removal to help make the canal larger and take pressure off the nerve being irritated.
When the spinal cord or other nerves get irritated, they can cause:
Physical therapy and medication will be tried first.
The surgery is done when other treatments have not worked. It is most often done to treat symptoms that keep getting worse.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor may do the following:
In the time leading up to your surgery:
Possible types of anesthesia for this operation include:
If the surgery is done with minimally invasive techniques, you will only need a few small incisions. A scope and small instruments will be inserted into these incisions. In some cases, open surgery will be done. This involves making a larger cut in the skin over the area in the back.
Once the area is visible, part or all of the lamina will be removed using a drill or other tools. The affected nerves may be moved into a better location to reduce further irritation. The spinal cord and discs between the vertebra will be inspected. If needed, the disc will also be removed to reduce pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. Other issues like bone spurs will be addressed as well.
When the work is complete, the incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during the procedure. You will have pain during recovery. Pain medication will help manage pain.
The length of stay will depend on the amount of work that was done. You may be able to go home the same day or you may need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days.
Recovery at the hospital may include:
The type and extent of surgery will determine how long you will be in recovery. Activities that place stress on the back such as bending or lifting will be restricted for a few months. Your return to work will depend on the physical requirements of your job. Staying active with appropriate activity like walking is important to speed recovery. Physical therapy will be recommended to help reagin strength and flexibility.
Medications will help manage pain and swelling pain.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Allen RT, Garfin SR. The economics of minimally invasive spine surgery: The value perspective. Spine. 2010;35(26 Suppl):S375-S382.
Djurasovic M, Glassman SD, et al. Contemporary management of symptomatic lumbar spinal stenosis. Orthop Clin North Am. 2010;41(2):183-191.
Herniated disc. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Herniated%20Disc.aspx. Updated July 2014. Accessed March 24, 2015.
Laminectomy. Encyclopedia of Surgery website. Available at: http://www.surgeryencyclopedia.com/Fi-La/Laminectomy.html. Accessed March 24, 2015.
Lindström D, Azodi O, et al. Effects of a perioperative smoking cessation intervention on postoperative complications: A randomized trial. Ann Surg. 2008;248(5):739-745.
Pain: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/detail_chronic_pain.htm. Updated February 23, 2015. Accessed March 24, 2015.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.