Indications, Risks and Follow-up Care for Laminectomy Surgery

Most back problems are treated conservatively with the use of physical therapy followed by medication when necessary. In certain situations where these methods fail to offer relief, laminectomy surgery is used to relieve pressure on nerves and the spinal cord. Also referred to as decompression surgery, a laminectomy is the removal of the lamina or back part of the vertebra. This increases the size of the spinal canal by reducing constriction of the cord.

Indications

Back pain that becomes dramatically worse during treatment may be referred to a surgeon. Severe pain that is not relieved by non-invasive techniques may likewise trigger a referral. However, not all back pain suggests the need for laminectomy surgery. It is primarily used in the neck and lower back regions. The surgery is sometimes indicated by the growth of bone spurs, which is called spinal stenosis. Other times, it is used as a preparatory procedure for access to herniated or otherwise damaged discs.

Severe back pain results from compromised nervous system communication. Pressure against the spinal cord rated as severe will cause such symptoms as radiating pain, numbness, or weakness. Muscle atrophy or numbness may progress in the arms and/or legs and result in walking difficulty. A compressed spinal cord sometimes causes a loss of bladder or bowel control as well.

Risks

Every form of invasive surgery is inherently risky. Laminectomy surgery carries these general risks and specific ones to back operations. Excessive blood loss, blood clots in the veins and infection are the general risks. Infection risk is sometimes countered through prophylactic use of antibiotics and other medications. However, even prophylactic preparation and sterile surgical environments introduce the risk of sometimes fatal infections.

Spinal surgery poses two potentially disabling risks. Leakage of spinal fluid causes damage the spinal cord and impedes communication in the central nervous system. Nerve injury beyond that already experienced by the patient is also possible. This may result in paralysis.

Post-op Care

People generally return home on the same or following day after laminectomy surgery. Before release, the medical team will perform checks on the patient’s mobility. Local pain relievers are sometimes prescribed for use on the surgery site. It is not uncommon for patients to require some amount of physical therapy for recovery of strength and flexibility lost before the surgery.

All recipients of this procedure are advised to avoid activities that engage the back muscles, including stooping, bending or lifting. Long car rides are inadvisable. Patients should not return to work without the doctor’s clearance, which is usually given between two and six weeks. Every patient and laminectomy surgery is different. Follow-up appointments are essential for a faster recovery, avoidance of further injury and post-surgical complications.

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