Laminectomy (Decompression Surgery)

A laminectomy eliminates pressure on the nerve roots in the spine. During the procedure, a surgeon removes the lamina bones and other aggravating bony outgrowths to allow the nerve roots more space in the spine.

What You Need To Know About Laminectomy

What is a Laminectomy?

A laminectomy reduces painful spinal compression pressure that can occur due to aging, trauma, stenosis, herniated spinal discs, or other spinal conditions.

During the procedure, a surgeon removes the lamina from the spinal column. The lamina is a flattened part of the spine that connects to the vertebral arch. Sometimes your surgeon will also remove neighboring bone spurs during a laminectomy. These other outgrowths can also put additional pressure on the spinal column.

After undergoing laminectomy, you may need a brief hospital stay, although sometimes it is done on an outpatient basis. Your Resurgens physician will create a unique treatment plan to promote your well-being. Learn more about lumbar decompression, cervical decompression, and more from Atlanta's spine experts.

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Laminectomy Types

There are two types of laminectomies, and both aim to create more room within the spinal canal:

  • Lumbar laminectomy surgery, also known as lumbar decompression, removes the lamina, which is the rear area of the spinal bone in the lower back.

  • Cervical laminectomy surgery, also known as cervical decompression, removes the lamina, which is the rear area of the spinal bone in the neck.

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Why is a Laminectomy Performed?

Laminectomy relieves pressure on the nerve roots in the spine. The surgeon may treat one or more vertebrae or bone spurs during a laminectomy.

Lumbar laminectomy surgery is performed to relieve the pain of lumbar spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that is usually caused by the formation of bony growths that can press against the nerve roots. Cervical laminectomy surgery decompresses the spinal cord, reduces nerve stress, and stabilizes the cervical spine.

Another common reason for laminectomy involves treating herniated spinal discs. Years of wear and tear on the spinal column can cause the spinal discs to become damaged or displaced, causing debilitating pain.

How To Prepare For A Laminectomy

In the lead-up to your procedure, you must communicate openly with your doctor. To develop your treatment plan, your doctor needs to know your healthcare history, including medications you are taking (both prescribed and over the counter), family history, allergies, and other related health information.

Before surgery, your doctor must perform physical and diagnostic imaging screenings. During your physical screenings, expect some light irritation as your doctor may ask you to replicate activities that cause condition flare-ups.

Make arrangements with a loved one or professional caretaking service to have someone drive you home from surgery and assist with household activities. Before your surgery, you will need to quit smoking, stop taking blood thinners, and follow any other advice from your doctor.

What Happens During A Laminectomy

Before the surgery, you will be given a general anesthetic to put you to sleep. Your surgeon will clean and prep the skin for surgery.

First, the surgeon creates a small incision to access the spine. If lumbar decompression is being performed, they will make an incision in the lower back. If cervical decompression is being performed, they will make this incision in the neck.

The spinous processes are the bony protrusions sticking out from the spine's rear. The surgeon carefully removes the spinous process from the vertebrae needing treatment.

Next, the surgeon removes the lamina. This is the part of each vertebra that forms the rear portion of the spinal canal. Removing the lamina opens up the spinal canal, creating more space for the nerves. The surgeon may need to remove the lamina from more than one vertebra to fully relieve the pressure.

The surgeon may also need to treat the foramina. These are the openings on each side of the vertebrae where the nerve roots exit the spine. The surgeon inspects these openings and clears away any bony growths that could press against the nerves.

The incision is closed with sutures or surgical staples when the laminectomy procedure is complete. The patient is monitored in a recovery room. Physical therapy may be recommended as the spine heals.

Are There Risks Associated With Laminectomy Surgery?

While laminectomy is a relatively safe procedure, no surgery is entirely free from risk. Potential complications include spinal fluid leak, injury to nerves, blood clots, infection, and bleeding. There are also risks associated with general anesthesia. Your doctor can thoroughly discuss any uncertainties you have before your procedure.

Post-Laminectomy Recovery

After your surgery, you will recover from your procedure in our recovery room. Many people can go home the same day as their surgery, under the observation of a loved one or caretaker. At most, you will need a few days to recover in the hospital. If you underwent a cervical laminectomy surgery, you would wear a cervical collar for a brief period to stabilize the upper back and neck.

Upon being discharged from care, you will need to avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activities. At your doctor's discretion, physical therapy and light exercise will improve your strength and flexibility.

You may be prescribed pain medication to help you manage your pain during recovery. While these medications provide pain relief, be wary as many of them are habit-forming. You will not be able to drive or engage in your typical routine until your doctor approves.

Getting the treatment you need starts with a visit to the Resurgens Spine Center. Schedule an appointment at one of our 24 metro Atlanta locations to learn more about lumbar decompression, cervical decompression, and more from Atlanta's spine experts.