A common source of low back and leg pain is pressure or compression on the nerve roots in the spine, and a surgical procedure called a spinal laminectomy is often used for relief. Surgery may also include the fusion of vertebrae or the removal of part or all of a vertebral disc, and instrumentation (e.g., spinal screws or rods) may be used for additional support to the spine and help facilitate fusion.
Why is a Laminectomy Performed?
The goal of a laminectomy is to relieve nerve compression by widening the space around the nerves (the spinal canal). The surgeon removes or trims the lamina (roof) of the vertebra to make more room for the nerves.
How is a Laminectomy Done?
A small incision is made in the lower back. Using a retractor, the surgeon spreads apart the muscles and fatty tissue of the spine. A portion of the lamina is removed so the surgeon can identify the cause of the compression on the nerve roots. Spinal compression is most often caused by a herniated disc. However, other sources of pressure may include:
- Disc fragments
- Osteophytes or bone spurs
Once the source of the compression is identified, it is removed and pressure is relieved. The incision is then closed using either absorbable sutures (stitches), which absorb on their own, or skin sutures, which have to be removed after the incision has healed.
Recovery from Laminectomy
Patients are usually up and walking the same day as the surgery. Recovery times vary; however, most patients can expect to stay in the hospital for 3-5 days. Once discharged, patients need to rest at home and avoid any heavy lifting or excessive stress on the spine. Daily walking is usually recommended to increase strength and regain flexibility. Once the incision has healed and the physician approves, patients can return to work and other daily living activities.