A laminectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing a portion of the vertebra known as the ‘lamina’ to increase the space between the spinal cavity in order to relieve the pressure being caused by its narrowing on the nerve roots inside the spinal canal (cavity). Pressure caused on the nerve roots (spinal cord) inside the spinal cavity causes severe pain and disability of movement.
Laminectomy is mostly needed when the bony growths within the spinal cavity in the vertebras start to push against the spinal cord and nerves in it, which can often give rise to arthritis of the spine.
This is a last-resort method of treatment in case all the other treatment options such as medications, physiotherapy and steroid injections fail to address the problem successfully.
Why is a Laminectomy required?
A laminectomy is basically needed when the overgrown bone of the vertebra within the spinal cavity (canal) causes narrowing of the space required by the spinal cord and nerve roots. An undue and constant pressure on the spinal cord, or nerves, can cause severe back pain, weakness and numbness which is likely to spread from the lower back to your arms and legs also. Laminectomy is better at relieving this resultant pain in the limbs rather than relieving the original back pain.
You are considered for a laminectomy when:
- Other treatment methods such as medication or physical therapy have been unsuccessful in treating the painful symptoms
- You experience numbness and weakness of muscles which makes it difficult to stand or walk
- You suffer from lack of bladder and bowel control
In certain cases, laminectomy may be combined with another spinal surgery such as herniated disc surgery in which the surgeon might have to remove a part of the lamina to get access to the damaged disc.
How is a Laminectomy performed?
A laminectomy procedure is a major type of surgical procedure and is performed under general anesthesia to the patient.
The surgery begins with the surgeon making an incision in your back over the affected portion and moves aside the muscles and other soft tissues away from your spine as required. The surgeon will then use surgical cutting tools to gently scrape away the side walls of the lamina and remove it completely leaving a space between the vertebral walls. This removal of the lamina results in increasing the space more for the spinal cord and the nerves inside the spinal canal and helps in relieving the pressure being put on it by a damaged vertebra or crushed lamina.
This surgery is now being performed using laparoscopic minimally invasive surgical technique which makes it more efficient and convenient with less pain, faster recovery and less period of time for a hospital stay after the surgery. The incisions are closed using stitches or surgical staples.
What are the advantages of a Laminectomy?
The main advantage of the laminectomy procedure is the pros associated with a minimally invasive surgical technique, such as less pain, faster recovery and shorter hospital stay. Other benefit of the laminectomy procedure is the relief it provides to the leg and arm pain that is caused by a pinched nerve in the back.
What are the risks associated with Laminectomy?
Although laminectomy is a generally safe procedure it does carry certain risks as is seen in any type of surgical procedure, such as:
- Nerve injury
- Blood clot
- Leakage of spinal fluid
The doctor/surgeon will take every possible precaution and preventive measure in order to avoid these complications from arising.