Editorial Staff and Contributors
to view an animated version of this procedure.
A laminectomy is a surgery to remove a small portion of a vertebra. Vertebrae are the bones of the spine. The part removed is called the lamina.
In some cases, only a portion of the lamina is removed from the vertebra. The part removed is above and below a pinched nerve. 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.
Ruptured 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 disk 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.
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a laminectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before surgery.
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. The lamina will then be removed using a drill or other tools. After the lamina is removed, the spinal cord and discs that were hidden under the lamina will be inspected.
In some cases, open surgery will be done. This involves making a larger cut in the skin over the area in the back.
The disc often needs to be removed as well to take pressure off the spinal cord.
If it is not a disc problem, other problems causing the nerve irritation will be fixed. In rare cases, a
spinal fusion may be done. A spinal fusion will involve joining two vertebrae. Lastly, the incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
You will have pain during recovery. Your doctor will give you pain medication.
This surgery is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 1-3 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if there are complications.
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
College of Family Physicians of Canada
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Last reviewed November 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
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.
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