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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about a laminectomy?

A laminectomy is surgery to take out the bony arches (lamina) of one or more of the vertebrae in your spine. This surgery can help to relieve pressure on your spinal cord or nerves.

Vertebral Column

How do I prepare for a laminectomy?

  • Your surgeon will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery. You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine before surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.

What will happen during a laminectomy?

  • You will be given medicine to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Your surgeon will make an incision in the middle of your back or neck over the area where the lamina will be removed. Part or all of your lamina will be removed. If needed, your surgeon will remove any other tissue that is putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. This may include a herniated disc or tumor. He or she may widen the area where the nerves go out of the spine.
  • Your surgeon may fuse (connect) your vertebrae with bone grafts, metal plates, rods, or screws. This will prevent movement between the vertebrae. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples, and a bandage will be placed over the area.

What should I expect after a laminectomy?

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room.

  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
  • You may be helped up to walk around. Walking helps prevent blood clots.

What are the risks of a laminectomy?

  • Even after surgery, you may continue to have symptoms, or your symptoms may return. Nerves in the area where the disc is removed could be injured. You may have numbness, pain, weakness, or paralysis. You may have problems controlling your bowel or bladder. You may develop a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. CSF surrounds and cushions your brain and spinal cord. Repair of the CSF leak may be needed at the time of surgery or later.
  • If your vertebrae were not fused during surgery, the removal of bone may cause your spine to become unstable (weak). You may need another surgery to correct any problems caused by this surgery. You may get a life-threatening blood clot.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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