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A laminectomy is usually done to help take pressure off your spinal cord or a nerve running out from your spinal cord. It is also done to gain access to the spinal cord, bones, and discs that are below the lamina.
Ruptured discs, bony spurs, or other problems can cause narrowing of the canals that the nerves and spinal cord run through. This can irritate the nerve if it gets too narrow. Often, a laminectomy is done along with a disk removal to help make the canal larger and take pressure off the nerve being irritated.
When the spinal cord or other nerves get irritated, they can cause:
Pain in an arm or leg
Physical therapy and medicine will be tried first. The surgery is done when other treatments have not worked. It is most often done to treat symptoms that keep getting worse.
X-ray—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones
MRI scan—a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of the inside of the body
Myelogram—a specialized type of x-ray that requires dye to be inserted near the spinal cord and shows if there is pressure on the cord or the nerves
CT scan—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the inside of the body
In the time leading up to your surgery:
If you are overweight, try to
lose weight. This will decrease the amount of stress on your back.
Talk to you doctor about your medicines. You may need to stop taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs for one week before surgery. You may also need to stop blood-thinning drugs, like
Arrange for a ride home and for help at home.
Eat a light meal the night before. Avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight.
Possible types of anesthesia for this operation include:
General anesthesia—blocks pain and keeps you asleep during the surgery; given through an IV in your hand or arm
Spinal anesthesia—numbs the area from the chest down to the legs; given as an injection in your back
Description of the Procedure
If the surgery is done
with minimally invasive techniques, you will only need a few small incisions. The doctor will insert a scope and small instruments into these incisions. The lamina will then be removed using a drill or other tools. Once the lamina is removed, the doctor can inspect the spinal cord and discs that were hidden under the lamina.
In some cases, the doctor will do an open surgery. This involves making a larger cut in the skin over the area in the back that needs attention.
The disc often needs to be removed as well to take pressure off the spinal cord.
If it is not a disc problem, the doctor will try to fix the other problems causing the nerve irritation. In rare cases, the doctor may do a
spinal fusion. A spinal fusion will involve joining two vertebrae. Lastly, the incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.