Spine Surgery: Laminectomy

Laminectomy is a surgery in which the back part of the vertebra, which is known as the lamina and covers the spinal canal, is removed in order to enlarge the space of the spinal canal and thus relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. It is for this reason that laminectomy is also known as decompression surgery.

Reasons why it may be necessary to perform a laminectomy

There are several causes that can create pressure in the spinal canal on the spinal cord and nerves, so laminectomy is effective in treating these cases. Among these causes are the following:

  • Spinal stenosis: consists of a narrowing of the spine, which mainly affects the elderly, due to degenerative changes. Through laminectomy, the plates of the vertebrae and damaged discs are removed, so that there is more space for the spinal nerves and the spinal cord, thus releasing excess pressure on them.
  • Excessive bone growth within the spinal canal, thereby narrowing the space for the spinal cord and nerves, which can occur in patients with arthritis of the spine. These bony growths are sometimes known as bone spurs, and they are an effect of the aging process in some people.
  • Herniated discs: Laminectomy is sometimes used as part of surgery for the treatment of intervertebral disc herniation, in which the surgeon removes part of the lamina in order to access the damaged disc that needs to be treated.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Some tumors.

Symptoms of pressure on the nerves and spinal cord

As a consequence of pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, the following symptoms may appear:

  • Pain, cramps, numbness, weakness and heaviness in the back, especially around the shoulder blade area, which can also spread to the arms or legs, in which case it can affect one or both arms or legs.
  • When the symptoms extend mainly to the legs, the muscle weakness and numbness that the legs suffer cause difficulty or poor balance when walking or standing.
  • Problems controlling the sphincters, causing difficulties in emptying or controlling the bladder and bowel.

In addition, when standing or walking these symptoms tend to manifest with greater probability and intensity.

When to resort to laminectomy

Before the appearance of the above symptoms, if they are mild, in the first place, more conservative treatments are used to relieve them, such as the use of medication, physiotherapy or injections. However, if symptoms are not relieved after these conservative treatments, laminectomy can be used as a surgical solution.

Laminectomy is also used if the symptoms are severe, or if they worsen drastically. In cases of spinal stenosis, symptoms tend to worsen slowly over time, with surgery being necessary when symptoms become severe enough to affect the patient’s quality of life and daily activity.

In general, by means of laminectomy, all or part of the symptoms are relieved. Since it restores space in the spinal canal but does not cure arthritis, it is effective in relieving symptoms due to nerve compression, but less so in relieving back pain caused by spinal joints.

How is laminectomy performed?

Laminectomy is a surgery performed under general anesthesia, which usually lasts between one and three hours. Throughout the procedure, the surgical team monitors the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen level.

To carry out the laminectomy, an incision is made in the skin, setting aside the muscles in order to access the vertebrae to be treated. The size of the incisions will depend on the cause of the problem to be treated, as well as on whether the technique used is minimally invasive (in which the necessary incisions are smaller) or if open surgery is performed.

The lamina part of the vertebra is then removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. In the event that the laminectomy is performed as part of the surgical treatment of a herniated disc, that is when the surgeon removes the herniated part and any part that has become detached (known as a discectomy). Finally, the muscles are put back in place and the incision is sutured.

After surgery, the patient usually spends between one and three days in hospital, and once at home it is necessary to treat the wound according to the specialist’s instructions. Physical therapy is also often recommended to improve strength and flexibility. The patient can return to normal activity around 6 weeks after surgery.

Laminectomy at Vithas Xanit Internacional

If you are looking for a specialist in the treatment of spinal problems, whether it requires surgery such as laminectomy, or another type of treatment, remember that at Vithas Xanit Internacional you will find the best specialists, who together with the use of the latest technology and minimally invasive techniques, allow us to offer you the best possible results in any surgery or treatment. Contact us for more information or make an appointment.