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The low back suffers a significant amount of wear and tear over time, which can result in a myriad of degenerative conditions. These disorders can put pressure on the nerves extending from the lower spine, leading to pain, weakness and difficulty walking. If you are suffering from chronic back pain, an assessment will tell you whether your spinal canal has narrowed, creating compression on select nerves. For many patients dealing with this condition, surgical treatment may decompress the area of the spine and relieve symptoms. The surgeons at Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio perform lumbar laminectomy for this purpose, offering patients reduction in pain and improvement in their quality of life.

Spinal Stenosis: An Overview

Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal, which may be caused by a variety of factors:

  • A herniated or bulging disc between two vertebrae
  • The formation of bony overgrowths (bone spurs)
  • Enlargement of the facet joints
  • The onset of age-related osteoarthritis

Most of these concerns are merely the result of the natural aging process. However, the narrowing effect can cause considerable pain and weakness in the spine and affected leg. Symptoms can become severe enough to keep you from daily tasks or prevent you from participating in activities you once enjoyed.

What is Lumbar Laminectomy?

Lumbar laminectomy, also called a decompression laminectomy, is an operation performed on the lower area of the spine to remove the back part of the affected vertebrae, known as the lamina. The procedure enlarges the spinal canal and eliminates the compression, relieving the associated symptoms in the process. If there are bone spurs or ligaments that are also adding pressure to the spine, they can be removed during the same procedure. Depending on how the procedure is performed, you may be able to go home the same day, or you may spend a day or two in the hospital before returning home.

Is Lumbar Laminectomy Right for You?

Lumbar laminectomy is one of the most common procedures performed on the spine today. However, that doesn’t mean this option is automatically the right one for you. Your surgeon will conduct a comprehensive examination and order a variety of diagnostic tests to pinpoint the source of your discomfort and determine which treatment will offer the best outcome. You might be a good candidate for lumbar laminectomy if you have any of the following:

  • Chronic pain in the lower back that may radiate to the legs
  • Pain, weakness or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Difficulty standing, walking or performing daily tasks
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • No relief with medication or other conservative treatment

Benefits and Risks of Lumbar Laminectomy

Before moving forward with any surgery, it is critical to weigh the benefits and risks to determine whether the advantages will override potential complications associated with the procedure. The most common benefits of laminectomy include:

  • Reduction in back pain
  • Improvement in numbness and tingling in the buttocks and legs
  • Increased leg strength to assist with standing and walking
  • Ability to participate in tasks and activities once again
  • Higher quality of life overall

While the potential benefits of laminectomy are indeed significant, there are some possible complications associated with this procedure that should be considered as well:

  • Infection (risk is reduced with administration of antibiotics)
  • Damage to one or more of the nerves of the spine
  • Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid
  • Excessive bleeding or blood clot formation
  • Negative reaction to the anesthesia

Your surgeon will cover all the benefits and risks with you, so you can make an educated decision about whether to go ahead with surgery. In addition, you will know what to expect during and after your procedure.

Lumbar Laminectomy Overview

Your surgeon will likely perform your laminectomy while you are under general anesthesia. Occasionally spinal anesthesia may be an option as well. An incision will be created in the back to allow for access to the affected vertebrae. Your surgeon will then be able to remove the ligament as well as all or a portion of the lamina. Bone and bone spurs can also be cut away. This process exposes the nerve root, so your surgeon can gently move it back to its proper position within the spinal canal. If necessary, a portion of the disc can also be removed to relieve the compression on the nerve entirely.

Recovery from Lumbar Laminectomy

Patients that undergo a lumbar laminectomy usually spend one to three days in the hospital afterward. Your nursing staff will teach you how to get in and out of bed properly and will help you begin walking if appropriate soon after your surgery. They will also monitor you carefully to ensure you recover from the operation and anesthesia without complications.

Your total recovery time will vary, based on the extent of your procedure. If fusion was included with your surgery, your healing time might take a bit longer. Most patients are back to work and most activities within a few weeks. However, lifting and bending may be restricted for up to two or three months. Your surgeon will see you for follow-up appointments after surgery and will advise you more precisely as to when it is safe to resume your daily routine.

Lumbar laminectomy may offer a significant improvement for patients that have suffered from chronic pain, numbness and weakness as a result of spinal stenosis. To find out if this procedure is an option for you, contact the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio today at 419-222-6622.