Lumbar Laminectomy Surgery
Lumbar laminectomy surgery is a procedure that is performed to alleviate persistent, often debilitating pain caused by pressure on the nerves (neural impingement), a herniated disc or to remove a tumor from the spine. During the surgery, the spine surgeon removes a small portion of the bone over the nerve root, known as the lamina, as well as disc material from a herniated or ruptured disc that may be under the nerve root. This gives the nerve root more space and an opportunity to heal.
Low back pain from problems in the lumbar spine can range from mild, dull or annoying pain to persistent, severe and debilitating pain. Pain in the lumbar region of the back can restrict mobility and interfere with normal functioning and activities.
Lumbar laminectomy surgery has a favorable success rate. Approximately 70% to 80% of patients have significant improvement in their ability to perform normal daily activities and a noticeably reduced level of pain and discomfort. Lumbar laminectomy surgery is considered only if nonsurgical treatments have proven to be ineffective.
Structure of the Lumbar Spine
The spinal column, also called the vertebral column or backbone, is made up of 33 vertebrae that are separated by spongy disks. Five of the vertebrae are in the lower back area (lumbar) of the spine. The vertebrae and bones are joined with other parts of the spinal structure that include:
- Lamina – The bony arch on the posterior (back) part of the vertebrae that is over the spinal column. This is the part of the spine that is removed during a laminectomy.
- Discs – Soft, shock-absorbing cushions between the bones of the vertebrae that allow the back to bend while preventing the vertebrae from rubbing against each other
- Spinal cord – The bundle of nerves that connects the brain to the rest of the body. The spinal cord passes through the center of the vertebrae.
- Spinal nerves – Nerves that connect the spinal cord to the rest of the body. These nerves may become compressed or “pinched” by a vertebra or disc.
- Muscles and ligaments - Support and protect the spinal column, providing both strength and movement
Conditions Treated with Lumbar Laminectomy Surgery
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – Spinal stenosis usually occurs in elderly patients, and is caused by degenerative changes that result in narrowing of the spinal column and the enlargement of the facet joints (small joints that connect the vertebrae). When the facet joints are enlarged, they place pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots that branch out from it. Nerve compression can cause severe pain and other nerve-related problems that can be debilitating. Lumbar laminectomy surgery is effective for decreasing pain and improving function for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis.
- Herniated (ruptured) disc – Discs are shock-absorbing cushions that sit between the vertebrae of the spine and prevent the vertebral bones from rubbing against one another. A herniated disc can be the result of degeneration associated with overuse or aging or it can be caused by injury or disease. When discs rupture, they bulge outside of their normal position between the vertebrae and can press on the spinal cord and the nerve roots that branch out from the spinal cord. Ruptured (herniated) discs can cause instability in the spine, abnormal movement and severe nerve compression symptoms such as pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the neck and arms.
- Other reasons for performing lumbar laminectomy surgery are injuries and spinal tumors.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Spine Services in New York performs lumbar laminectomy surgery as well as a broad range of nonsurgical and surgical treatments for conditions that affect the spine.
The Rehabilitation Network of the North Shore-LIJ Health System is dedicated to providing you and your family with result-oriented, comprehensive rehabilitation services. Our goal is to help you and your loved ones find relief from pain and get moving again after an accident, illness, injury or surgery. We’re your partner in a safe, healthy, more rapid recovery.