Cervical laminectomy is the removal of the lamina of the vertebrae in the cervical spine. If you’re not familiar with this type of terminology, keep reading; it will be explained and you’ll understand cervical laminectomy as well as any doctor!
The vertebrae has a very unique shape, with an opening in the very center for the spinal cord. In the back part of the vertebrae, the bone juts outward, forming what’s called a spinous process. This spinous process helps each vertebrae fit together on top of the next vertebrae in the spinal column. It allows the spine to flex forward and limits the spine from extending too far backwards.
The lamina of the vertebrae connects the spinous process to the adjoining body of the vertebrae.
There are seven cervical vertebrae and in between the second and third vertebrae, a disk can be found. Disks are also found at every additional level of cervical vertebrae below this level.
The trouble that causes problems severe enough to warrant a cervical laminectomy starts with the bone that surrounds it. For example, when a person has arthritis, it’s possible that extra bone forms on the vertebrae body. Since the extra bone isn’t supposed to be there, it can close down the opening of the spinal canal where the spinal cord is found. This is called spinal stenosis.
Whenever the spinal cord and its nerves that come out through the vertebrae in a little hole called the foramen, they are expected to pass through the vertebrae and go off to the muscles, which they supply the nerve flow to. But when there’s stenosis, this won’t happen exactly as it should.
If the condition goes on for too long, the nerve supply shuts down more and more. This means that the muscles won’t get the nerve supply and therefore, it’s difficult to make the muscles work as they should. You may want to lift your arm, for example, but the muscles to do this feel weak simply because they aren’t getting the nerve supply. As you can see, this can be a very difficult situation to live with.
Another thing that happens is that the nerves in distress release signals to your body to do something about it. These signals include pain, pins and needles, hot sensations, cold sensations, and even numbness.
Cervical laminectomy surgery
In cervical laminectomy surgery, the lamina of the vertebral body is removed to allow more room for the spinal canal. This takes pressure off the spine and can result in an immediate decrease in symptoms.
Thus, surgery is considered by doctors whenever the symptoms continue worsening. For example, if the muscle weakness gets progressively worse, this is a sign that the spinal cord and its nerve roots are continuing to be compromised.
Another indication for surgery is if the pain increases, or any of the distress symptoms from the nerves increase. There could also be difficulty walking.
Since the lamina is located close to the spinous process, which can be felt in the middle of the spine with your fingers, this is a type of surgery performed when a patient is lying face down. This way the doctors can access the lamina and remove it to make room for the spinal canal and nerve roots.
Cervical laminectomy surgery is easier on the body than if the surgery on the neck and cervical spine was done from the front of the body with the patient lying face up.
Cervical laminectomy recovery
A nerve or the spinal cord, which has been harmed needs time to recover. Although newer cervical laminectomy procedures take less time and the incision is smaller than ever, patients still need to give themselves time to recover.
All patients must wear a protective spinal collar for at least a few weeks, and it’s the doctor who determines how much longer the collar is needed after a cervical laminectomy.
Nerve tissue takes the longest of any tissue in the body to heal, but still patients will often see a big difference in how they feel a few weeks after surgery. The best recommendation is to take it easy, follow all the doctor’s instructions, and don’t think you’re a superman or superwoman with amazing healing powers. Just because some of your symptoms are gone doesn’t mean you can do cartwheels! Slow down, enjoy life and enjoy the healing process.
Cervical laminectomy recovery always includes rehabilitation where you will re-learn muscle movements and build up the strength of the muscles. Expect this to last at least 4 weeks.
Filed under: Spinal Stenosis