Lumbar Laminectomy Animation

To address your low back pain, you may have been told you need a decompressive surgery called a lumbar laminectomy. What is this type of spine surgery? What conditions does it treat? What can you expect during the procedure?

This short animation will help answer your questions, but remember: The best source of information about your particular pain and treatment options is your doctor. Ask your doctor questions to understand whether the procedure is best for you.

A Short Spinal Anatomy Lesson

To get the full picture of what will be done in a lumbar laminectomy, it's helpful to know some details about spinal anatomy.

The lamina is a bony part of the spine. It's part of the spinal canal (the spinal cord passes through there), and it's often called the "roof" of your spine. The lamina is on the posterior side (the back side) of your spine.

In the image below, you can see the lamina labelled (as well as other part of the spine). That is what needs to be removed in a lumbar laminectomy.
Spinal column, structures labeledThe lamina is labelled in this illustration of lumbar spine vertebrae. It's part of the spinal canal, and it's often called the "roof" of the spine. Photo Source: Shutterstock.

Why Is a Lumbar Laminectomy Done?

If you have back pain (and/or leg pain) caused by compression of the spinal nerves and/or spinal cord, you may need a lumbar laminectomy. It is performed to relieve that pressure, which is why it is called a decompression surgery.

Your nerves or spinal cord may be compressed by a herniated disc; it can push into the spinal canal or onto the spinal nerves.

Bone spurs (osteophytes) are another cause of nerve compression. These are overgrowths of bone that can develop through normal wear and tear on the spine. They can, unfortunately, press on spinal nerves or the spinal cord and cause pain.

How a Lumbar Laminectomy Is Performed

You will be positioned face down on the operating table, and the surgeon will make a small incision over the surgical area.

After retracting the muscles and fatty tissues, the spine is exposed and your surgeon will start to carefully remove the lamina. With the lamina gone, the surgeon can remove any portions of a herniated disc that are causing your pain. He or she will also be able to address any bone spurs you may have causing nerve compression.

During a lumbar laminectomy, your surgeon is careful to avoid damaging the nerves or the spinal cord. You may read more details about this operation in Procedure: Lumbar Laminectomy.

If your surgeon believes you are a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, you may undergo a microlaminectomy, which achieves the same goals as a traditional laminectomy with several added benefits. You can read more about that procedure in What Is Microlaminectomy and Microlaminotomy?

Before undergoing a laminectomy, make sure to discuss all the details of the procedure and any spine surgery risks with your doctor.

Updated on: 03/19/19
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