Princeton Neurological Surgery’s Dr. John Lipani is proud to help patients from all across New Jersey find relief from their back pain by performing a laminectomy in Hamilton, NJ, as well as our additional locations. To learn more about the potentially life-altering surgical procedure, read the commonly asked questions below.
What Is a Laminectomy?
A laminectomy is a surgical procedure that can effectively relieve the compression of the spinal nerves and resultant pain caused by spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a condition that involves a narrowing of one or more areas of the spine, placing excessive pressure on the spinal nerves in the region. It often produces pain, cramping, and numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms, lower back, or legs, depending on where on the spine the problem occurs. This condition can develop as a result of injury or deterioration to the discs, joints, or bones within the spinal canal.
In a laminectomy procedure, a small section of bone that covers the back of the spinal cord, called the lamina, is removed. The removal of this portion of the bone and any nearby bone spurs relieves the pressure on the spinal cord. This type of surgery is typically performed through the back. The location of the approach through the back will vary depending on what level of the spine is that the nerve roots have been affected. It most commonly occurs in either the cervical, or neck, region, or the lumbar, or lower back, area.
The spine is the long column of vertebral bones and discs that protect the spinal cord and the many nerves that branch off from it and provide function and movement to nearly every area of the body. The cervical and lumbar spine are most commonly affected by injury and disease because of their frequent use and pressure put on them from sitting, standing, sleeping, and working. Each of these areas of the spine is composed of several vertebrae and a disc in between each set, which cushions the vertebrae and prevents them from rubbing against each other.
While many cases of spinal stenosis can be successfully treated through conservative methods such as physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, rest, and a back brace, some patients do not respond to these measures. If the symptoms of spinal stenosis become progressively worse, a laminectomy may become necessary. It can provide relief from the pain, numbness, or weakness many patients experience in one or both arms or legs.
What are the Benefits of Laminectomy Surgery?
A laminectomy is generally considered a safe and effective surgical procedure. It is recommended when conservative methods fail to alleviate pain or when signs of nerve damage appear. The primary benefit of laminectomy surgery is that this procedure removes the pressure being placed on nerve roots or the spinal cord. The expected result is a reduction in pain and secondary symptoms related to nerve damage.
Who are the Ideal Candidates for Laminectomy Surgery?
Doctors routinely prescribe conservative modalities to alleviate back pain before surgery is considered. Laminectomy is usually recommended after treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications, activity modifications, physical therapy, and corticosteroid injections have failed to provide sufficient relief.
Candidates for laminectomy have typically tried at least a few of these nonsurgical treatments without obtaining pain relief. Additionally, patients may be prime candidates for this procedure if they experience:
- Pain in the limbs that is greater than pain in the back
- Limb sensations such as tingling, weakness or pain
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
How is Laminectomy Surgery Performed?
A laminectomy of the spine is performed through the affected area of the back while the patient is under general anesthesia. Once the skin at the treatment site has been cleaned with an antiseptic, Dr. Lipani makes an incision and carefully retracts the muscles and ligaments to obtain access to the spine. An imaging device such as an X-ray is typically used during the surgery to view the structures of the vertebrae and pinpoint the problem area.
Depending on the extent of the damage, the lamina may be removed in portions or in its entirety on both sides of the spine. Dr. Lipani will then assess the region, removing any calcified cartilage as well as the spinous process, which is sharp protrusions at the back of each vertebra, if necessary. By removing the lamina, bone spurs, and other debris, the compression of the spinal cord and spinal nerves is alleviated and symptoms will improve. Once this is completed, the muscles and other tissue of the back are repositioned and the incision is sutured closed. The laminectomy procedure typically lasts between one and three hours.
“Dr. Lipani is the finest neurosurgeon! Compassionate, Caring, Down to Earth with his professionalism; he is the best! My son Alan, had an L-4/ L/5 Spine Fusion, 7.5 hour surgery and I can not thank the “Great Doctor”/Surgeon for his dedication, kindness and caring.” – Alan B.
“The Doctor outstanding in every way possible. Explaining every detail and taking his time to do so. Amazing for a surgeon to be so informing of the procedure to me and my wife. After the surgery he came out and explained everything to me. My wife is doing great after the cervical spine fusion, moving her arm in ways she hasn’t in years and getting her feeling back in her fingers” – Anthony R.
“Dr. Lipani and his staff are excellent. Dr. Lipani was very thorough. He explained what needed to be treated and why. He has terrific bedside manners. He answered all my questions patiently. Did not rush me at any time. I recommended him to one of my friends and she was extremely happy with him too.” – Poornima S.
What Results Can a Laminectomy Achieve?
Studies indicate that laminectomy surgery is very successful at reducing the symptoms of nerve compression, including pain and numbness. Surgery is expected to significantly relieve, if not eliminate, the weakness and pain that were linked to compression. By resolving these symptoms, laminectomy allows patients to resume a much higher quality of life.
What Should I Expect During My Laminectomy Recovery?
A laminectomy should relieve much or all of the pain and numbness in the arms or legs that stenosis sufferers experience. After the procedure, you will most likely need to remain in the hospital for one to three nights. Soon afterward, most patients begin a physical therapy regimen to build up their muscle strength and flexibility. There will be restrictions from activities that require reaching, bending, and lifting for several weeks following the procedure. Generally, most people can return to work in approximately three months.
When Can I Return to My Regular Activities After My Laminectomy?
Physical activity is generally limited to walking for the first two weeks of recovery after laminectomy. The first follow-up visit is usually scheduled for this time. During those first two weeks, patients should walk as much as they comfortably can. It is possible to walk up and downstairs, the provided railing is available for support. Sleeping in a normal position is also possible.
Lifting is limited to objects 5 pounds and under for two weeks. After this time, allowable weight should increase. Additionally, low-impact cardiovascular activities may be resumed. As recovery progress and physical therapy build muscle strength and flexibility, activity restrictions will progressively decrease.
Many patients are able to drive short distances after one to two weeks of recovery. This is only possible once narcotic pain medication is no longer being taken.
Is Laminectomy Surgery Painful?
Laminectomy surgery is completely comfortable. Patients undergo this procedure with general anesthesia, which affects the nervous system in a way that blocks pain signals. Additionally, anesthesia has an amnesic effect, so patients do not remember much of their surgery day if anything at all.
Is A Laminectomy Considered Safe?
Like all spinal procedures, laminectomy surgery carries some risks. Potential complications include infection, blood clots, adverse reaction to anesthesia or medications, and nerve damage. Despite these risks, most laminectomy procedures are uneventful and successful at reducing pain.
Are There Risks to a Laminectomy Procedure?
Laminectomy is a spinal surgery procedure and as such, it carries some risk. The complications that may be associated with this procedure include infection, blood clot formation, nerve damage, and an adverse reaction to anesthesia.