What is a Laminectomy and Why Might I Need One?

Back pain: You don't have to live with it.

Doctors estimate that just about everyone will have at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime. It is, in fact, one of the top three reasons adults give for seeking medical care. Often, your back pain is due to a muscle strain or pull that responds well to anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and other conservative treatment measures.

But when your back pain radiates (travels) into your legs or is accompanied by muscle weakness, it may be due to problems within the spinal column that are causing issues with your nerves. In that case, you may need a laminectomy to relieve the pain and restore your nerve function.

And remember that your spine isn’t limited to your back. Neck pain with numbness and weakness traveling into your arms may indicate a problem in your cervical spine. A laminectomy can also address those issues.

Jose Rodriguez-Cordova, MD, FACS is one of Houston’s top-rated spine specialists. He’s a board-certified surgeon who leads the team here at Orthopaedic Institute for Spinal Disorders. Dr. Rodriguez-Cordova is happy to provide insight about the potential benefits of a laminectomy, especially the minimally invasive type, and why you may need this relatively common spinal surgery.

Understanding the basics of a laminectomy

The spine is a marvelous system of bony and soft-tissue structures that work together as a sort of pillar to support your body, allow you to bend and twist without going too far, and provide protection for your spinal canal.

Your backbone includes vertebrae that stack one on top of another. Each vertebra has a central opening that forms the spinal canal, through which your spinal cord and nerves pass. The laminae are small plates of bone that join at the back of each vertebra, creating a roof-like structure that covers the entry to the spinal canal.

In medical speak, “-ectomy” describes the surgical removal of a body part. Thus, a laminectomy is the surgical removal of a lamina.

The purpose of a laminectomy

Certain conditions, such as the formation of bone spurs on the lamina, can narrow the spinal canal through which your nerves travel. This compresses the nerve(s), which causes irritation, inflammation, and pain.

Disc herniation is another common condition that can aggravate your spinal nerves. This occurs when the rubbery, disc-shaped pads of cushioning tissue between your vertebrae begin to bulge and push against the nerves running through the spinal canal.

Along with pain, narrowing of the spinal canal that causes nerve compression can result in weakness and numbness in your arms or legs, as well as a loss of bowel or bladder control when nerves in your lower spine are involved.

By removing the lamina of an affected vertebra, we essentially remove the restrictive “roof” covering that portion of your spinal canal. This gives your nerves back the space they require and relieves the pressure causing your symptoms.

The benefits of a minimally invasive laminectomy

A minimally invasive laminectomy, also known as a microlaminectomy, typically accomplishes the same results as a traditional laminectomy but includes benefits such as:

Not everyone is a good candidate for microlaminectomy. Dr. Rodriguez-Cordova discusses your options in detail before scheduling your procedure and provides clear information regarding the surgery itself and what you can expect during your postoperative care and recovery following a laminectomy.

You can rely on Dr. Rodriguez-Cordova and our team at Houston’s Orthopaedic Institute for Spinal Disorders to provide the most effective and conservative treatments available for the health of your back. Call for your appointment today or click the “book online” button to schedule your visit.

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