What Is Laminectomy Surgery?
Laminectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove a portion of the vertebral bone called the lamina. As medical science has advanced, laminectomy has evolved. With a traditional laminectomy, more than just the lamina is removed; in fact the entire posterior back bone is removed along with its overlying ligaments and muscles. With the advancements made in the field of minimally invasive surgery, microlaminectomy surgery can be performed microscopically or endoscopically. These new procedures require only small skin incisions and muscles and ligaments are left intact and only pushed aside. Recovery time for a traditional laminectomy generally requires months, whereas a microlaminectomy will usually take only a few days to possibly a few weeks.
Why Is a Laminectomy Performed?
One would tend to believe that a lamina would be removed because it has become either damaged or diseased in some way. This is not true, and the lamina is rarely, if ever removed for this reason. The main reason for removing the lamina with laminectomy surgery is to break the continuity of the rigid ring of the spinal canal to provide more free space for the soft tissues in the spinal canal; this is known as decompression. Laminectomy may also be performed to allow a surgeon to access the deeper tissues inside the spinal canal.
Traditional Laminectomy Surgery
As mentioned earlier a traditional open back laminectomy is performed through a large incision where the posterior spinal ligament is removed along with the facet joint and some, if not all, of the spinal process. The spinal process is a slender projection forming from the back of a vertebra to which muscles and ligaments are attached.
Laminectomy surgery should be performed only after all conservative treatment methods for the patient’s condition have been exhausted. This is because conservative treatment methods will cause little or no additional damage to the patient, as long as they are suggested by a trained physician, or physical therapist. Seeking treatment through self help over the internet should be discouraged until an accurate diagnosis of the patient’s condition has been formed.
With all surgeries there are risks involved and there is a possibility that a condition worsens if the surgery fails. Often times a surgeon needs to perform a spinal fusion, along with traditional laminectomy, to stabilize the spine. The need to perform a spinal fusion will also increase the risks of complications.
Laminectomy for Spinal Stenosis
Considering the meaning of spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) one can understand why a laminectomy would be an ideal procedure to treat the condition. By removing the lamina and some of the surrounding structures, extra room is created in the spinal canal and symptoms of the stenosis are therefore relieved. With pressure released, the patient’s pain caused by the stenosis will be alleviated. This is not to say that spinal instability would not create additional pain. This again is why a spinal fusion is performed to stabilize the spine after laminectomy surgery. Depending on the required extent of the fusion, back mobility, including bending and flexing, may also be compromised.
Lumbar laminectomy is a term used to describe laminectomy performed in the lumbar region of the back. A lumbar laminectomy is most often performed to treat spinal stenosis of the lower spinal canal.