The decompression laminectomy operation is a common back surgery in which the doctor removes vertebral bone that is putting pressure on nerves. The back part of the vertebral bone is the part that is removed and the operation could entail removal of that portion of vertebral bone from more than one vertebra. Other painful conditions, like bone spurs, can also be addressed during decompression laminectomy surgery.
The surgery is considered a major operation that requires the use of general anesthesia delivered through a facial mask. Patients are also given a sedative to help them remain calm and to increase the general anesthesia’s effectiveness. During the operation, the patient lies on his or her stomach to allow access to the back. Patients are frequently intubated, which involves putting a plastic tube through the patient’s mouth, past the vocal cords to the windpipe. This allows doctors to have air pumped in and out of the patient’s lungs during the surgery. This is done with a mechanical ventilator.
The Surgery Itself
Spinal surgery can be done from the front or the back, but a decompression laminectomy is done from the back. It starts with the surgeon making an incision above the area where the pain originates. After the incision is made, the surgeon then moves the muscle and soft tissue in order to have a view of the patient’s spine.
After the correct area of the spine is exposed, surgeons then cut away bone spurs and any ligaments that are pressing on nerves. The surgeon could also cut away substantial portions of vertebrae that have been causing the patient pain or discomfort or limiting flexibility.
Along with the decompression laminectomy, the patient may have to undergo spinal fusion. This entails “welding” two vertebrae together by use of bone grafts – one or several – that allow the adjacent vertebrae to heal together as one bone. Sometimes, the surgeon elects to use metal plates, screws and rods to ensure that the vertebrae are stabilized.
A spinal fusion restricts flexibility the patient had before surgery, but the movement is often the source of the pain. The patient sacrifices some movement while finding relief from the pain presented by a herniated disc or other conditions.
When the surgery is complete, the surgeon sews the wound back together and the patient wakes up as the mask is removed and the intubations tube is taken out.
Recovering from a decompression laminectomy can take a while, although many patients, with their doctor’s approval, find they can go home the same day the surgery is performed. You will be instructed on how much activity you can take on until healing is complete.
Others are not so lucky. According to Spine-Health, 70 percent to 80 percent of patients who undergo this operation feel immediate relief, while others find relief is slower to arrive.
There are also risks with this surgery, just as there is with other major operations. In the case of decompression laminectomy, the risks include:
- Nerve root damage – the odds are 1 in 1,000 of this occurring
- Cerebrospinal fluid leak – odds are 1 percent to 3 percent, but recovery from this is usually under 24 hours if the patient remains lying down
- Infections – 1 percent of cases, although usually this can be dealt with by the use of IV antibiotics.
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Are you or anyone you know suffering from back pain? Let us help you return to an active lifestyle. Call FXRX Orthopaedics and Bracing in Phoenix, Az., at 480-449-FXRX.