What is a lumbar laminectomy?
A lumbar laminectomy is a procedure that helps to alleviate lower back pain and symptoms of spinal stenosis. The surgery removes part of the vertebrae in the spine that causes issues. During this procedure, more space is created for nerves, easing pressure within the spine. Lumbar laminectomies are performed at the Surgery Center of Fort Collins. Opting to have this procedure done at a surgery center such as our location can help to keep costs low (as compared to having the operation done at a hospital) and is often a less stressful experience for the patient.
What is spinal stenosis?
You probably already know that your spinal cord is a hub for hundreds of nerves. During spinal stenosis, the spaces between the vertebrae in your spine begin to narrow, which puts pressure on these nerves. Spinal stenosis can occur higher, in the neck (cervical stenosis), or in the lower back (lumbar stenosis, also the most common). Those with spinal stenosis may experience numbness or tingling in their feet or legs, back pain, or cramping in the legs when standing for long periods of time.
It is important to note that symptoms can worsen over time, so see a doctor if you are experiencing them. Those over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing spinal stenosis. Treatments for spinal stenosis vary – for some, taking pain relievers will help, for other patients, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, steroid injections, a decompression procedure, or a surgery called a laminectomy, which is what we perform at the Surgery Center of Fort Collins.
What happens during a laminectomy?
Before your laminectomy at the Surgery Center of Fort Collins, you’ll be receive a phone call at least a few days before your scheduled procedure date from our pre-operative screening nurse to go over your health history, answer your questions, and give you instructions about when to stop eating and drinking. You will need to arrange for a responsible adult to take you home after the surgery and remain with you for at least 24 hours while you are recovering.
Usually, general anesthesia is administered, and you will be unconscious during your laminectomy. Your surgeon will make an incision on your back and move muscles away from the spine in order to access the vertebrae. At this point, they can remove bone, bone spurs, or ligaments that are putting pressure on your nerves. The procedure can take between 1-3 hours, and we generally recommend that patients arrive 60 minutes before their scheduled operation time.
As with all surgeries, there are risks involved with a lumbar laminectomy. These risks include damage to the spinal nerve, infections, blood loss, return of back pain, and other things. Your surgeon will go over all possible risks and ensure that you are informed before undergoing the procedure. However, this is a common procedure that works for most patients. With the goal being to improve back and leg pain, about 85-90% of patients do experience a successful lumbar laminectomy according to Spine Health.
How is recovery from a laminectomy?
On average, patients will begin to experience normal function again after 4-6 weeks. You will likely be on pain medications and may have an adjusted diet at first. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on sitting up, walking, and going up and down stairs. Generally, bending and twisting is not permitted during the first few weeks after surgery, but always follow your doctor’s instructions about surgery recovery. If at any point during your recovery you have questions, do not hesitate to call your doctor. Some patients may use a back brace during their recovery.
If you have questions regarding the lumbar laminectomy procedure or think that you may have symptoms of spinal stenosis, please call the Surgery Center of Fort Collins at 970-494-4800 or speak with your doctor.