A lumbar laminectomy is a type of surgical procedure that is used in cases of back pain due to a disc herniation or spinal stenosis. The symptoms associated with these types of back pain include the following:
- back pain
- sciatica or pain that extends from the back into the buttocks and down the back of the leg and sometimes down to the foot and toes
- pins and needles sensations
- hot and/or cold sensations
- muscle weakness
These symptoms can worsen to the point where a patient will ask the doctor to do the surgery. The symptoms can be associated with severe disability and loss of job as well.
However, the standard medical procedure for those with back pain, even due to severe disc herniations, is to leave surgery to one of the very last options. If lumbar laminectomy surgery doesn’t occur for all those months, that’s quite a bit of pain to endure.
Surgery may not occur for at least six months, and even up to one year. This is because most cases of back pain, and even cases of disc herniation, can resolve on its own.
This may be surprising, but when you consider that how you move your body every minute of the day makes a big impact on your healing rate. If you move your body in ways that aggravate the disc herniation or stenosis, then healing is impeded and you’re on the pathway to lumbar laminectomy. What you do in your daily life matters a lot! Many cases of lumbar back pain have been resolved with a rehabilitation program where exercises are done daily.
Lumbar laminectomy surgery
Out of 100,000 cases of herniated disc, only about 450 end up with lumbar laminectomy surgery. The average age of those who get this type of surgery is between 40 and 45 years old and it is mostly men.
Of the five different lumbar vertebrae in the spine, it’s the fourth and fifth vertebrae that are operated on in over 95% of these operations. In this type of surgery, the lamina part of the vertebrae is removed along with the ligament that adjoins the lamina to the vertebrae. In the same surgery, the spinal nerve is placed back in its proper position to allow healing to begin.
If you’re concerned about dying during a lumbar laminectomy, stop worrying so much. Statistics show that you have a 99% chance of living after this surgery.
Complications can include blood loss, infection, blood clots, nerve damage and spinal fluid leak. Back pain can also worsen after some cases of lumbar laminectomy.
If you’re concerned about complications, there is a way to determine if you’re more prone to develop them after your surgery. The determining factor is whether the lumbar laminectomy is done solely as the surgical procedure or not. If a spinal fusion is added to the surgery, then the complications rate is 12%; without it, the complications rate is 7%.
Of course, your doctor has the final say-so about what type of surgical procedure will be done, but you may want to consider getting a second opinion. Lumbar fusion surgery rates increased 20 times among those who were receiving Medicare in the U.S. in 2002 and 2003, according to researchers at the Department of Orthopedics at Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire. This was reported in the Spine journal in 2006.
Medicare spending increased more than 500% from 1992 to 2002 and by the next year, a full 47% of the Medicare spending went to fusion surgeries.
Lumbar laminectomy recovery
During lumbar laminectomy recovery, there are several recommendations your doctor will make:
- To reduce blood clots, wear compression stockings.
- Take pain medication for pain reduction.
- Sleep on your side or on your back, not on your stomach. Use pillows under your knees.
- You may be catheterized temporarily.
- Exercises should be done to tighten your abdominals after the surgery.
- Schedule your next doctor visit for about 7 days from the date of your surgery, and then in another month.
- Watch for signs that complications are arising from the surgery:
- Signs of infection around the incision
- Blood drainage from the surgical wound
- Fever and/or headache
- Pain that worsens
- Inability to move your legs
- Shortness or breath
It is smart to follow all the recommendations of the doctor to avoid complications from lumbar laminectomy surgery.
Surgical recovery also includes taking it easy on normal daily activities such as driving, grocery shopping, lifting heavy items (or anything greater than 10 pounds), sexual intercourse, and even excessive sitting. If you normally work a job that involves sitting for 8 hours a day or more, then check with your doctor when you can return back to work after the lumbar laminectomy.
Filed under: Spinal Stenosis