A laminectomy is a procedure used to relieve pressure on nerves and the spine. This is done by removing the lamina which is on the back of the vertebra and covers the spinal canal. By removing the lamina, the spinal canal can enlarge which takes pressure off of the spinal nerves. The pressure often felt can be attributed to bony growths that cause discomfort and can also be caused by arthritis or aging.
Why It’s Done
A laminectomy might be appropriate for you if you experience pain or pressure in your spine. This procedure works to enlarge the spinal canal which can limit the impact of bone growths and spurs on the surrounding nerves and spine. The bone growths can occur in people with arthritis or as people age, but they create discomfort around the spine. A laminectomy may be the right procedure if you have tried more conservative approaches such as medications, steroids, and physical therapy that are not yielding the intended effects. Depending on your situation, the surgeon may choose to treat multiple vertebrae.
What To Expect?
- “To reach the spine, an incision is made near the center of your low back.
- The incision may be 1 to 6 inches long. This depends on how many vertebrae are involved.
- In some cases, removing part or all of the lamina may be enough to relieve pressure on the nerve. In other cases, disk material or bone spurs must also be removed.
- Once the nerve is free of pressure, the incision is closer with surgical glue, stitches, or staples.”
- When the procedure is complete, the incision is closed with sutures or surgical staples.
- The patient is monitored in a recovery room.
- Physical therapy may be recommended as the spine heals.
Benefits Of Laminectomy
A Healthy Spinal Column
“The stacked vertebrae are separated by disks. Together with the disks, the vertebrae form a tunnel call the spinal canal. Running through this canal is a fluid-filled sac, containing spinal nerves. Nerves carry signals between the brain and the body. When a spinal column is healthy, the following parts fit together without pressing on the nerves:
- The lamina of each vertebra forms the back of the spinal canal.
- A foramen is a small opening, formed by the stacked vertebrae, through which a nerve leaves the spinal canal.
- Disks serve as cushions between vertebrae. A disk ‘s soft center absorbs shock during movement.”
“During a laminotomy, part of the lamina is removed from the vertebra above and below the pinched nerve. The small opening created is sometimes enough to take the pressure off the nerve. If needed, the disk material or bone spur that is pressing on the nerve is also removed.”
Back Problems, Pressure, Pain, and Surgery
“A damaged disk or abnormal bone growth may press on and irritate a nerve. This can cause pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in the leg. Pressure on a nerve that connects to the sciatic nerve may cause pain in the buttock and down the leg.
Constant wear and tear can weaken a disk over time. The disk can then more easily be damaged by a sudden movement or injury. If it’s soft center begins to bulge, the disk may press on the nerve. Or the outside of the disk may tear, and the soft center may squeeze though and irritate or pinch a nerve.
As a disk wears out, the vertebrae above and below the disk begin to touch. Thai can put pressure on a nerve and cause irritation. Often abnormal bone (Called bone spurs) grow where the vertebrae rub against each other. The foramen or the spinal canal can narrow (called stenosis). This may cause irritation of a nerve.”
“When it’s healthy, the low back allows you to bend and stretch without pain. But if you have an irritated or pinched nerve, you may have pain, tingling, or numbness in your buttock and all the wall down your leg. Sometimes just standing or sitting causes problems. Your back problem may be due to a sudden injury. Or aging and the wear and tear of constant use may have caused changes in your spine.
Laminotomy and laminectomy are surgeries that remove a small amount of bone from the spine. This takes pressure off nerves in the spine, which can greatly reduce symptoms. When pain puts limits on your life and other treatments don’t help, surgery may offer the best relief.”
“Having a laminectomy or laminotomy can help by:
- Reducing pain. The procedure can relieve leg pain from the buttock down to the foot.
- Improving leg strength. As the pain lessens, you’ll be able to use your legs more. This rebuilds muscle.
- Reducing numbness. The procedures may help restore feeling in the affected leg.
- Improving quality of life. After surgery, you should be able to move with greater ease. Many people return to tasks and sports they did before their back problems started.”
Dante F. Vacca
Jay K. Morgan
MD, PhD, FAANS
MD, MS, FAANS
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Neurosurgery?
Most people think of neurosurgeons as brain surgeons, and this is true! However, neurosurgeons are more broadly defined as highly trained medical specialists who diagnose and treat disorders of the entire nervous system – including our brain, spinal cord, skull and the spine (bony vertebral column). Of course, they operate on the brain, but they actually spend more of their time helping patients with spine and peripheral nerve disorders.
Do I need surgery if I am being referred to a neurosurgeon?
Not necessarily. Your referring physician most likely believes that you have a disease or disorder which would benefit from diagnoses, testing and treatment by a neurosurgeon. The decision whether or not to recommend surgery is a complex one, best handled by your neurosurgeon and his/her team.
What is the difference between an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon?
Each of these surgical specialists has their own areas of expertise however, their skill and expertise overlap in the area of spinal surgery. Both specialties require 5-7 years of residency training, followed in some cases by additional time in fellowship training. Neurosurgeons perform spinal operations dealing with the cervical discs, nerves, and the bony spine, while orthopedic surgeons handle surgeries limited to the bony spine, such as spinal fusion.
How do I make an appointment with Sierra Neurosurgery Group?
Call us today at (775) 323-2080 or toll free (888) 323-2080. We have 5 locations to serve you: Carson City, Elko, Fallon, Reno and Sparks. If your health insurance plan requires a referral, contact your primary care or emergency room physician and request a referral to Sierra Neurosurgery Group.
What is the difference between a neurologist and a neurosurgeon?
A neurologist and a neurosurgeon are similar to a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon: the neurosurgeon can offer a surgical solution to neurologic disorders, while the neurologist identifies neurological disorders through diagnostic testing and uses non-surgical treatment options.
Do you offer X-rays and MRI’s?
Sierra Neurosurgery offers comprehensive imaging services at our Reno office on Kietzke Lane, including X-Ray services and MRI scans with & without contrast. This provides a quick, easy and no-hassle way to complete necessary imaging as part of your treatment plan.
What to Expect From Your Visit
Sierra Neurosurgery Group is focused on providing the highest quality surgeries with the best possible patient care. We focus on creating a unique experience for each of our patients to show them we understand their current situation and to do our best to help them get back to living the life they want. We provide the best care to our patients because we have assembled a team of professionals with extensive surgical experience consisting of neurosurgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and interventional pain specialists. Our personnel, focus on patients, and quality of care allows Sierra Neurosurgery Group to be highly effective in creating the best results and outcomes for our patients.