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Laminectomy is also known as decompression surgery. In this surgical procedure, a part of the vertebral bone called lamina is removed to create additional space. The lamina is the back part of the vertebrae that covers the spinal canal. Removing the lamina enlarges the spinal canal and thus, helps relieve pressure on the nerves and the spinal cord. Bony growths, especially in people with spinal arthritis, may put an additional pressure on the spinal cord. It may cause severe back pain and in some severe cases, can even cause paralysis. Narrowing of the space between the vertebrae is also known as spinal stenosis.

Laminectomy surgery, which is a form of spinal stenosis treatment, helps relieve pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves by creating a room between the vertebrae and the cord. When the pressure on the spinal cord in the case of lumbar spinal stenosis is relieved by creating a space between the lumbar vertebrae, the procedure is known as lumbar laminectomy. During a lumbar laminectomy, the surgeon may even remove the ligaments or bone spurs pressing the spinal cord.

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Before the Treatment

  • Before the procedure, a team of doctors and surgeons will call you up for an examination to assess whether your health is suitable for the surgery or not.
  • You will be asked to share a list of medications that you are currently taking.
  • You may be advised to stop any anti-inflammatory medicines or herbal supplements that you be taking.
  • The doctors would ask you to stop smoking at least weeks before the surgery to improve chances of recovery.
  • Specific tests such as an MRI and X-rays will be conducted, in addition to routine blood tests and an ECG.
  • You will be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight before the surgery.

How it is Performed

During the surgery, the following steps are performed:

  • You are asked to lie on your abdomen in a kneeling position so that the pressure and weight of the abdomen on the spine is minimal.
  • Anesthesia is administered prior to making the incision to numb the area and also to put you into a temporary sleep.
  • The surgeon makes an incision over the targeted vertebrae directly
  • The team then removes complete or a part of the lamina and the ligaments to see the affected nerve root.
  • The nerve root is shifted back to the center of the spinal column before removing the disk or ligaments and bone spurs compressing the spinal cord. This is also known as decompression.
  • In some patients, spinal fusion is conducting at this time to stabilize the spine.
  • After the targeted disks are removed, the incision is closed with the help of sutures.


Laminectomy surgery takes anywhere between two to three hours to complete. The loss of blood during the surgery is minimal. Shortly after the surgery, the patient is moved to the recovery room. After a few hours, the patient is transferred to the normal hospital room. The patient can expect the following things after the surgery:

  • You will be asked to lie on your side.
  • A catheter may be placed to drain the bladder.
  • Pain may be there for a few days. However, it is managed with the help of painkillers.
  • Compression stockings or compression boots may be advised to prevent the formation of blood clots in the legs.
  • You will be asked to start walking after a few hours of the surgery.
  • You will be advised to perform certain breathing exercises, tighten the abdominal muscles to support the spine, and always bend at the hip after the surgery.

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Q: How dangerous is laminectomy?

A: Laminectomy is a relatively safe procedure. Complications such as nerve root damage and paralysis are extremely rare.

Q: What is post-laminectomy pain syndrome?

A: This is characterized by persistent pain in the back following the laminectomy surgery. It is also known as failed back surgery syndrome. The surgeons may advise medications or a second surgery to treat it.

Q: How long does it t ake to recover from lumbar laminectomy?

A: It may take anywhere between four and six weeks to recover from the surgery.

Q: How do you sleep after back surgery?

A: It is alright to sleep in a position that is most comfortable for you. Some people prefer to sleep on their side with a pillow between their knees or behind their back for support. While others find it convenient to sleep on their back.

Q: Can you drive after back surgery?

A: Yes, you can. However, make sure to avoid it for at least six weeks and seek approval from your doctor first.

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