Back Pain - Lumbar Laminectomy

This is surgery to remove part of one or more of the bones that make up the lower part of the spine (lumbar vertebrae).

This is surgery to remove part of one or more of the bones that make up the lower part of the spine (lumbar vertebrae).

Lumbar laminectomy is surgery to remove a specific section (lamina) of one or more of the bones that make up the lower part of the spine (lumbar vertebrae). Removing part of a lumbar vertebra creates more space. The extra space allows pressure to be taken off the spinal nerves and/or the spinal column. It is most commonly done to reduce back pain and remove abnormal bone growth (bone spurs).

During a lumbar laminectomy, the surgeon may also perform other surgeries on the lower spine. Some examples include a:

  • Foraminotomy, which increases the size of the opening a nerve passes through
  • Fusion, which joins two vertebrae together to increase the stability of the spine
  • Diskectomy, which removes the cushion between two vertebrae

Even without medical treatment, most episodes of back pain will usually resolve within six to eight weeks. A lumbar laminectomy may be recommended if you have spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) that has been confirmed by an MRI AND causes symptoms that affect your daily life and work. Some symptoms associated with spinal stenosis include:

  • Pain, numbness or weakness in your lower back and leg(s)
  • Difficulty controlling urination and bowel movements
  • Increased symptoms when standing or walking

A laminectomy is not recommended when a cause for your back pain has not been established.

If surgery is necessary, prior to the surgery you should tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking (including over-the-counter medications and supplements). Ask about specific instructions you should follow before surgery. These may include:

  • Meeting with a physical therapist to learn how to walk with crutches
  • Medications you should not take before the surgery, such as blood thinners
  • Regular medications you should take on the day of your surgery
  • How many hours you should stop eating and drinking before the surgery

If you are a smoker, you should quit. Smoking can interfere with your recovery.

During your surgery, you will receive general anesthesia to keep you comfortable and pain free. With general anesthesia you are put into a deep sleep and are unable to see, hear or feel anything. A lumbar laminectomy usually takes a few hours. You will probably spend a few days in the hospital after the surgery. It may take from a few weeks to a few months before you are back to your normal activity level.

  • Physical therapy is often recommended for several weeks after back surgery. This is to help get you back to normal strength and mobility.
  • You may also need pain medication and help at home while you recover.

What should I ask my healthcare provider before having a lumbar laminectomy?

  • What is my diagnosis and reason for the surgery? Are there any alternatives? What are the benefits and risks of each?
  • What is the likelihood my surgery will be successful?
  • Will you need to perform other surgeries at the same time you perform this surgery?
  • What is your experience in doing this type of surgery? What is your complication rate?
  • Is there any special preparation for the surgery? (If so, get clear instructions on what you need to do.)
  • What type of anesthesia will I have? What are the possible side effects?
  • What are the possible complications for this surgery?
  • How will I feel after the surgery and will I have to modify my activity?

After your surgery, you should know what you had done, what medication was given, and what symptoms you should report to your healthcare provider after discharge. You should also understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans. Your surgeon should also communicate with your primary care physician.


Also known as:

Surgery on Back
Pain in Back
Lumbar Laminectomy
Lamina Removal
Back Surgery
Back Pain - Lumbar Laminectomy
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