(Lamina Removal; Removal of the Lamina)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
Click here to view an animated version of this procedure.
A laminectomy is a surgery to remove a small portion of a vertebra. Vertebrae are the bones of the spine. The part removed is called the lamina.
In some cases, only a portion of the lamina is removed from the vertebra. The part removed is above and below a pinched nerve. This procedure is known as laminotomy.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
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. Herniated 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:
Physical therapy and medication 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.
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
In the time leading up to your surgery:
Possible types of anesthesia for this operation include:
Description of the Procedure TOP
If the surgery is done with minimally invasive techniques, you will only need a few small incisions. A scope and small instruments will be inserted into these incisions. The lamina will then be removed using a drill or other tools. After the lamina is removed, the spinal cord and discs that were hidden under the lamina will be inspected.
In some cases, open surgery will be done. This involves making a larger cut in the skin over the area in the back.
The disc often needs to be removed as well to take pressure off the spinal cord. If it is not a disc problem, other problems causing the nerve irritation will be fixed. In rare cases, a spinal fusion may be done. A spinal fusion will involve joining two vertebrae. Lastly, the incision will be closed with stitches or staples.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
You will have pain during recovery. Your doctor will give you pain medication.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
Your activities will be restricted while you heal. The incision area will need to be cared for to prevent wound infection. Some activity is necessary to improve circulation, promote healing, and reduce the risk of blood clots. When you are ready, you will be referred for physical therapy. Exercises will help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility. Your doctor may advise medications to help with swelling and pain.
Call Your Doctor TOP
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
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Djurasovic M, Glassman SD, et al. Contemporary management of symptomatic lumbar spinal stenosis. Orthop Clin North Am. 2010;41(2):183-191.
Herniated disc. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated December 2011. Accessed November 25, 2013.
Lindström D, Azodi O, et al. Effects of a perioperative smoking cessation intervention on postoperative complications: A randomized trial. Ann Surg. 2008;248(5):739-745.
Pain: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
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Updated August 30, 2013. Accessed November 25, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014