As someone with spinal stenosis, you’ve probably started doing research on treatment options. One concern you might develop is: Is a laminectomy a major surgery?
The truth is, this surgery option is minimally invasive and is an outpatient surgical procedure, with no overnight hospital stay required. The goal of a laminectomy procedure is to get you relief from the nerve pain/numbness caused from spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal or nerve roots). But should it be your first option?
What is a Laminectomy Surgery?
Just what is a laminectomy anyway? This is usually a last resort at Desert Spine and Scoliosis Center, as Dr. Baig believes in performing the least-invasive therapy first. But, for some folks, a laminectomy surgery might be the only option.
A laminectomy is a type of spinal decompression surgery in which the lamina (the back part of the vertebrae in your spine) is surgically removed. This is done in order to allow access to the spinal canal for Dr. Baig to appropriately decompress and remove the disc herniation or bone spurs that are pushing on the affected nerves. Laminectomy can be performed in any area of the lumbar spine and can even effectively relieve you from sciatic nerve pain.
Patients can get either a bilateral laminectomy or a unilateral laminectomy, depending on what Dr. Baig thinks will be best. A bilateral laminectomy involves removing both sides of the lamina on the affected vertebra. This can be done with or without removing adjacent tissue and bone and/or widening the intervertebral foramina. A unilateral laminectomy involves removing just one side of the affected vertebra with or without the surrounding tissues.
Who Should Get a Laminectomy?
A patient who would benefit from this type of surgery will often have neurological symptoms that would include:
- Radiating nerve pain coming from their back that shoots into the leg(s)
- Numbness or tingling in their lower extremities
- Weakness resulting in a tired feeling or heaviness in the legs.
- Bowel and/or bladder control problems
Some patients may experience one of these symptoms, or all of them at once. These symptoms are often caused by herniated disks, bone spurs, and/or osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is something that most of us encounter as we get older. It can cause bone spurs along the spine, leading to a narrowing of the spinal canal and pressure on the spinal nerves.
These bone spurs can cause pain and even neurological conditions. This typically occurs in the lumbar (lower) spine. A laminectomy is performed to remove these bone spurs and relieve pressure on the nerves.
Many patients can manage spinal stenosis without surgery, but some cannot. Dr. Baig might recommend a laminectomy if you aren’t responding well to conservative measures such as pain medication, oral anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, or epidural steroid injections. A laminectomy may also be recommended if muscle weakness or numbness in the legs is stopping you from being able to walk, or if the lamina already needs to be removed for a herniated disc.
The Laminectomy Procedure Itself
A laminectomy procedure would require a patient to be placed under general anesthesia. Once the patient is asleep, the patient is appropriately positioned with the utmost care. With state of the art fluoroscopy, Dr. Baig will identify the affected vertebrae and disc. Dr. Baig will then make a small incision above the affected area. He will then start removing the lamina, followed by entering the spinal canal, and will use a microscope to appropriately decompress the patient’s spinal canal in the most precise manner available. This not only ensures the delicate handling of the spinal nerves, but also reduces nerve injury. Once the spinal canal is decompressed, Dr. Baig will then begin the wound closure process.
Dr. Baig can perform either a traditional or minimally invasive laminectomy and can also perform a discectomy at the same time if you’re dealing with disc damage too.
Is a Laminectomy a Major Surgery
Any surgery, whether it be spine related or not, is a big deal. Even though a laminectomy is generally a minimally invasive outpatient procedure, it is a decision that should be carefully considered by you, in consultation with your spine surgeon. With any surgery, there come risks and benefits. This is important to have a very open and honest conversation with your surgeon to ensure all questions are answered, and any concerns are addressed.
With that in mind, there are a few things to consider. First is the fact that a laminectomy can very often be performed in minimally-invasive ways. This can help speed up recovery, minimize the size of the incision on your back, and get you back to living life the way you want. Dr. Baig will never perform any surgery unless he is convinced that the reward for your quality of life will be worth the risk.
After the Procedure
After a laminectomy, the recovery is usually simple. Many patients are able to go home just a few hours after having the surgery performed.
People who have had lumbar laminectomy surgery can return to regular daily activities sooner than you think. After a laminectomy surgery, recovery time involves keeping to simple activities during the first few weeks and likely needing to take minimal time off work.
Physical therapy can be instrumental in helping to strengthen your core and help you learn proper range of motion exercises to aid in your overall recovery, and Dr. Baig will recommend this after surgery, only if necessary.
Laminectomy Success Rate
The goal of a successful laminectomy surgery is to alleviate the nerve-related pain affecting your lower extremities. However, there is a 10% chance of a disc re-herniating, necessitating the need for a revision laminectomy and microdiscectomy. Should this indeed happen, Dr. Baig would be happy to consult with you on further treatment options in order to help alleviate your pain.
A laminectomy procedure is the only cure to spinal stenosis, and the vast majority of patients experience long-lasting success.
Book a consultation with us now to learn if a laminectomy is right for you. We are here to help you learn about and alleviate your pain. You can reclaim your vitality from the pain of spinal stenosis with the compassionate help you will get from our spine specialist experts.