By Dr. Sridhar R, Neurosurgery
Laminectomy is a surgical procedure that is used to relieve back pain caused by spinal stenosis. This condition occurs when the spaces between your spinal column become too narrow. Acutely painful, it exerts pressure on your spinal nerves and bones. A laminectomy removes the lamina (outer layer) of the bones to create space and relieve the pressure. Commonly known as decompression surgery, it is only performed when other treatments fail to produce the desired results.
An MRI or a CT scan will be used to confirm that the surgery is the best option. Any medication you might be taking will have to be discontinued a week or two prior to the procedure. Tobacco and alcohol consumption will also have to be reported to your physician. Along with any other medical condition you might have had over the years.
Conducted under either a spinal block or general anesthesia, the operation takes about 1-3 hours. An incision is made in the middle of the neck or back. The lamina of the bones that are affected are removed. Tissues, spinal disc fragments or bone spurs that might prove problematic will be removed. A spinal fusion to increase space between the vertebrae might also be done. The incisions are kept as small and the process as minimally invasive as possible.
After the surgery you might be required to stay at the hospital for a day or three under supervision. Physical activities should be limited and work put on hold for a week at least. Physical therapy to enhance strength and flexibility will be required.
The potential complications and risks of Laminectomy are the following.
- Nerve Damage: Even though the surgery is painstakingly done to avoid the spinal cord, nerve damage is a major risk associated with Laminectomy. However, it is extremely rare since the procedure is usually performed well below the vertebral column.
- Leakage: If during the operation the dural sac gets breached, then there might be some cerebrospinal fluid leakage. This however does not affect the results of the surgery. All one needs to do is lie down for a day and the leak will seal by itself.
- Infection: Surgery always carries with it the risk of infections. It can be easily and effectively taken care of with the help of IV antibiotics.
- Bleeding: Although a possibility, bleeding is a rare complication. Given that the surgery is performed on the bones the chances of wounding a blood vessel are quite slim.
The pain caused by spiral stenosis can be debilitating as it tends to radiate to the limbs making movement extremely painful. Laminectomy is a permanent and effective solution to that.