If you have significant pain in your back, arms, and leg; nerve problems resulting in weakness or loss of bladder or bowel control; or difficulty walking more than a short distance, you may be a candidate for laminectomy. At Mount Sinai, we have extensive experience in the use of this procedure.
People consider laminectomy when more conservative measures such as medication, physical therapy, and injections have failed to provide relief of symptoms.
Laminectomy is a procedure that removes the lamina, the back part of the spine that forms a roof over the spinal canal, to enlarge the spinal canal and ease pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. The procedure is also called decompression surgery.
Conditions Treated by Laminectomy
At the Spine Hospital at Mount Sinai, our surgeons generally use laminectomy to treat spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal cord often caused by degeneration and arthritis. These conditions can lead to enlargement of the facet joints, thickening of the ligaments, and growth of bone spurs, which all put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Most laminectomy patients are over age 65.
Minimally Invasive Technology
During a laminectomy, you lie on your stomach so your back is accessible. We make a midline incision at the site of the nerve irritation and inserts a tube into the spinal column. Called tubular retraction, this tube creates a tunnel to the problem area and keeps the muscles out of the way during the procedure. According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, this minimally invasive spine surgery approach limits muscle damage.
Once the area is accessible, the surgeon removes the lamina or any bone spurs, which often reduces irritation and inflammation. Sometimes our surgeons perform a laminectomy as part of spine treatment, in combination with a discectomy or spinal fusion. Doctors have found that laminectomy can be more effective at alleviating arm and leg pain than with lessening discomfort in the back.
Laminectomy patients can typically begin gentle activity a few hours after the procedure. Most remain in the hospital for one to three days after surgery.
You may do physical therapy after returning home, first focusing on stretching, then on building endurance and strength. After laminectomy, you may find that you can walk longer distances more easily than before.
While the procedure may not completely eliminate any back, arm, or leg pain, you should experience significant relief of symptoms.