to view an animated version of this procedure.
A laminectomy is a surgery to remove the lamina. This is the back part of one of the bones (vertebra) of the spine.
Sometimes only part of the lamina is removed. This is called a laminotomy.
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Reasons for Procedure
This surgery is done to ease pressure on the spinal cord and nerves from herniated discs, bony spurs, and other problems that cause narrowing of the spinal canal. It is done when other methods have not helped ease weakness, numbness, and pain.
It may also be done to gain access to structures in the spinal cord.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Blood clots
Damage to nerves
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Arranging for a ride to and from surgery
- Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as images of the spine and nerves
The doctor may give:
Description of the Procedure
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. Some people may have open surgery. A larger cut will be made in the skin over the area in the back.
After the incision(s) is made, tools will be used to remove part or all of the lamina. Nerves may also be moved to ease irritation. The spinal cord and discs between the vertebra will be examined. Other repairs may be made at this time. The incision will be closed with stiches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the area.
Laparoscopic Removal of Disc Tissue
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How Long Will It Take?
1 to 3 hours
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first few weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
Some people may be able to go home the same day. Others may need to stay longer. It depends on the amount of work that was done. If you have problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after surgery, the staff may:
- Give you pain medicine
- Encourage you to walk
- Teach you how to use any assistive devices, such as a back or neck brace
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incisions
It will take about 4 to 6 weeks to fully heal. Physical activity will be limited during this time. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision
- Pain that you cannot control with medicine
- Trouble urinating or having a bowel movement
- New numbness or weakness in the hips, groin, or legs
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Herniated disc. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Disc. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Laminectomy. Better Health Channel website. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/laminectomy. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Laminectomy. Johns Hopkins website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/laminectomy. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Laminectomy: surgery for back pain. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/10895-laminectomy-surgery-for-back-pain. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-disk-herniation. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 8/2/2021