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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.

How do I prepare for a laminectomy?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for surgery. He may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.

What will happen during a laminectomy?

  • You will be given medicine to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You will lie face down. Your surgeon will make an incision in the middle of your back or neck over the area where the lamina will be removed. He will move the skin and muscles of your back to get to your spine. 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 disk or tumor.
  • Your surgeon may fuse (connect) your vertebrae together with bone grafts, artificial materials, or metal plates, rods and screws. This will prevent movement between the vertebrae. Your surgeon will move the muscles back into place. The incision will be closed with stitches or staples, and a bandage will be placed over the area.

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. The dura (tough tissue covering the spinal cord) may be torn during surgery, causing 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.
  • You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. 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 blood clot in your leg or arm. This may become life-threatening.

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

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.