Back pain that interferes with normal daily activities may require surgery for treatment. Laminectomy is a type of surgery in which a surgeon removes part or all of the vertebral bone (lamina) to relieve compression of the spinal cord or the nerve roots that may be caused by injury, herniated disk, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the canal), or tumors. A laminectomy is considered only after medical treatments have proven to be ineffective.
Other related procedures that may be used to help diagnose back problems include CT scan, X-ray, MRI, electromyogram (EMG), and myelogram.
Reasons for the Procedure
Low back pain can range from mild, dull, annoying pain, to persistent, severe, and disabling pain. Pain in the lower back can keep you from moving and get in the way of your daily life. Laminectomy may be needed to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves, treat a disk problem, or remove a tumor from the spine.
One common reason for having a laminectomy is a herniated disk in the spine. A disk may be moved or damaged because of injury or wear and tear. When the disk presses on the spinal nerves, this causes pain, and sometimes numbness or weakness. The numbness or weakness will be felt in the body part where the nerve is involved, often the arms or legs. The most common symptom of a herniated disk is sciatica. Sciatica is a sharp, shooting pain along the sciatic nerve which runs from the buttocks to the thigh and down the back of the leg.
If medical treatments don”t help, back surgery may be a good option. Laminectomy is usually done when back pain that continues after medical treatment, or when the back pain is accompanied by symptoms of nerve damage, such as numbness or weakness in the legs.
There may be other reasons for your health care provider to recommend a laminectomy.
A laminectomy usually requires a stay in a hospital. Procedures may vary depending on your condition and your doctor”s practices.
A laminectomy may be performed while you are asleep under general anesthesia, or while you are awake under spinal anesthesia. If spinal anesthesia is used, you will have no feeling from your waist down. Newer techniques are being developed that may allow a laminectomy to be done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. Your doctor will discuss this with you in advance.
Generally, a laminectomy follows this process:
During a surgical procedure called a discectomy, the surgeon removes all or part of the disk and/or bone over the nerve root that is pressing on a nerve root to relieve pain – typically leg pain due to a herniated disc in the lower back – and provide more room for the nerve to heal.
This procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis, with a one-inch incision in the middle of the lower back.