What is a Laminectomy?

Laminectomy is a surgical procedure used to create space in the spinal canal to help alleviate the symptoms associated with an irritated or impinged nerve root or spinal cord. This pressure can be caused by a variety of problems, including bony overgrowths within the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) or by a herniated disk. Each vertebra contains two laminae, which are bony segments that help form the arch across the back of the vertebra.

During a laminectomy, the laminae are either reduced in size or removed altogether. This is done either to remove pressure from nerve roots (decompression) or to allow a surgeon access to the affected nerve root. It also can be used to help correct the contour of the spine in, for example, scoliosis patients. A laminectomy includes removal of the entire vertebral arch, along with overlying muscles, tissues, and tendons.

The success rate of a laminectomy depends on the specific reason for the operation, the surgeon’s technical ability, as well as proper patient selection. A laminectomy can relieve pressure on the spine, but it is not a cure-all for spinal stenosis. There may be considerable pain immediately after the operation. For some people, recovery can take weeks or months and may require long-term occupational and physical therapy. Surgery does not stop the degenerative process and symptoms may reappear within several years.

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