A laminectomy is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon removes a portion of the bony arch, or lamina, on the dorsal surface of a vertebra, which is one of the bones that make up the human spinal column. Laminectomy is done to relieve back pain that has not been helped by more conservative treatments. In most cases a laminectomy is an elective procedure rather than emergency surgery. A laminectomy to relieve pain in the lower back is called a lumbar laminectomy or an open decompression.

During the surgery, you will lie face down on the operating table. The surgeon will make an incision (cut) in the middle of your back or neck. The skin, muscles, and ligaments are moved to the side. Your surgeon may use a surgical microscope to see inside your back. Part or all of the lamina bones may be removed on both sides of your spine, along with the spinous process, the sharp part of your spine. Your surgeon will remove any small disk fragments, bone spurs, or other soft tissue. The surgeon may also do a foraminotomy (to widen the opening where nerve roots travel out of the spine) at this time. Your surgeon may do a spinal fusion to make sure your spinal column is stable after surgery.

Surgery takes 1 to 3 hours.

Your doctor or nurse will ask you to get up and walk around as soon as your anesthesia wears off, if you did not also have spinal fusion. Most patients go home 1 to 3 days after their surgery.

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