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What is Laminectomy Surgery?
What is Laminectomy Surgery?

Lamina are the flattened or arched parts of each spinal vertebrae that form the roof or back part of the spinal canal.  Degeneration of the vertebrae or bony protrusions from osteoarthritis cause narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the spinal cord or nerves.  This narrowing is called spinal stenosis.  It most often affects the neck (cervical stenosis) or the low back (lumbar stenosis).  Stenosis becomes more common as people age.

A laminectomy is the surgical removal of the lamina to create more space in the spinal canal for the nerves.  Laminectomy is done to treat cases of spinal stenosis that have not improved with conservative treatments.  The procedure reduces compression that may be causing pain and other nerve issues.

Symptoms of Cervical Spinal Stenosis

"Spinal stenosis. The top view (left) shows the superior articular process of the inferior vertebra, the inferior articular process of the superior vertebra, and the narrowed spinal canal. A side view (right) shows a damaged intervertebral disc with a loss of disc height and narrowed lumbar vertebrae (top) and a normal disc.(bottom)."
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in the shoulders, arm, hand, or leg
  • Hand clumsiness
  • Problems with balance

Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

  • Low back pain that eases when bending forward or sitting
  • Pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs, calves, or buttocks
  • Burning or tingling in the affected leg
  • Bladder or bowel problems (in severe cases)


A medical history and physical examination will be performed.  The doctor looks for loss of reflexes in the extremities, loss of sensation, muscle weakness, and other signs of spinal cord damage.  Diagnostic tests may include x-rays, CT scan, and MRI.

Is a laminectomy always necessary?

Non-operative treatments are often successful in treating spinal stenosis cases.  Medications can be used to treat pain and inflammation, and muscle relaxers may be helpful.  Physical therapy may be recommended.  Special exercises can help build strength and flexibility as well as stabilize the spine.  Patients may need to temporarily restrict certain activities that may be aggravating their condition.

When is a laminectomy recommended?

If non-surgical measures are not successful, a laminectomy may be recommended.  Several surgical techniques are available to treat the condition.  Laminectomy has a high success rate and can greatly improve quality of life.

Most patients can begin getting out of bed on the same day as their surgery was performed.  Pain medications can help patients with pain management during their recovery.  Activities will be increased gradually as healing allows.

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