Lumbar Laminectomy: Determining If Back Surgery Is Right for You
Lumbar laminectomy is a less invasive surgical option for the treatment of spinal stenosis.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis describes a disorder where the channel of bone surrounding the spinal nerves is narrowed. In many cases, spinal stenosis is associated with osteoarthritis or other degenerative disorders. As the bone and other tissues break down, they reduce the size of the spinal canal. Pressure on the nerve roots in the lumbar area can affect legs and feet as well as the lower back. Yet while many associate spinal stenosis with the lower back, it can occur anywhere along the spine, including in the neck.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis include:
- Pain in the lower back
- Leg pain, which can radiate from the lower back and buttocks down the leg to the foot
- Leg weakness, causing “foot drop” or the legs to give way
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Loss of bowel or bladder control in extreme cases
Laminectomy Surgical Treatments and Conditions
After attempting various nonsurgical treatments for eight to 12 weeks, a Spine Center surgeon may consider a laminectomy. A surgical treatment specifically designed to treat spinal stenosis, it involves removing part or all of the rear section of the vertebra. It effectively relieves pressure, decompressing the spinal nerves. Because it does not include fusion, it preserves the flexibility of the spine.
A laminectomy generally involves one of two procedures. A bilateral laminectomy involves the removal of two sides of the rear portion of the affected vertebrae (called the lamina), while a unilateral laminectomy involves only removing bone from one side. Sometimes surgeons can perform a unilateral laminectomy in a minimally invasive manner, but bilateral laminectomies typically involve larger incisions.
Lumbar laminectomy is a common and highly successful treatment for spinal stenosis. No matter the specifics of a procedure, they are all performed under anesthesia. The incision is usually less than five inches and is made over the damaged area of the spine. Next, lamina tissue is removed, giving the surgeon access to affected nerve roots. The facet joints (directly overlying nerve roots) may be trimmed as needed. When the procedure has adequately decompressed the spinal nerves, the surgeon will close the incision.
Post-Operative Recovery Treatments and Tips
The vast majority of patients report positive outcomes after receiving a lumbar laminectomy. A full 85 to 90 percent say they experience reduced leg pain after the procedure, and 75 percent stated that the pain remains decreased for up to 10 years afterward.
However, there are some steps patients can take to ensure they get the best possible outcomes after receiving a lumbar laminectomy. One of the most important steps may also seem the most counterintuitive: walking. Unless the procedure involves spinal fusion, a postoperative patient should attempt to walk a few steps the same day as having a lumbar laminectomy.
Why? Failing to walk could cause an excessive growth in scar tissue, and that could place renewed pressure on the recently freed spinal nerves. Physical therapy is a related step that can help ensure patients remain as pain-free as possible. Additional steps include maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding smoking, and meeting regularly with your physician.
Trust Spine Center Surgeons for Laminectomies
If you have experienced back pain, leg pain, weakness, or other signs of spinal stenosis, visit The Spine Center for an evaluation. Our team has spent 50 years performing laminectomies and other related procedures. The Spine Center’s conservative approach takes the latest research into account and uses the most advanced technologies. Our patients’ good is our goal.
Give us a call at (847) 628-8147 to schedule your appointment. After complete diagnostics, we will discuss the least invasive, most effective treatment options for your situation.