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What Is a Spinal Laminectomy and How Does It Work?

Surgery after a spinal cord injury (SCI) is a common occurrence. Spinal cord surgery is often required to help remove bone fragments or other impediments that may be obstructing or pressing against the spinal cord — a collection of 31 nerve bundles housed within the boney protective structure of the vertebral spine. This delicate structure is an integral component of the body’s central nervous system (CNS), which serves as the communication conduit between the brain and the rest of the body.

In some cases, surgery is needed immediately after a traumatic SCI; in other cases, an operation could take place weeks, years, or months after the injury occurs. Many of the surgical procedures are related to spinal decompression. There are multiple types of spinal decompression surgical procedures — though similar in goal, they have different uses and processes:

  • Spinal Discectomy
  • Spinal Foraminotomy
  • Spinal Laminectomy
  • Spinal Laminotomy
  • Spinal Laminoforaminotomy

For this article, the type of spinal decompression surgery we will focus on is a spinal laminectomy.

What is a Spinal Laminectomy and What Should You Expect?

Spinal laminectomy surgery is a procedure that removes the lamina, which is part of the bony structure of the spinal canal known as the vertebral arch. The arch consists of two pedicles and two laminae. The number of laminae that are removed during a spinal laminectomy is determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the needs and condition of the patient.

The procedure can take anywhere between one to three hours to complete. In some cases, patients can return home the same day after their surgery; in others, patients will need to be admitted to the hospital for at least one day. According to a WebMD article, spinal laminectomy recovery time for a light procedure can permit a patient to return to light activity within a few days to a few weeks. If a patient has a combined procedure (such as a foraminotomy and a laminectomy performed together), that can extend their recovery time to upwards of four months.

However, the results for patients who undergo spinal laminectomy surgery are generally positive. According to the WebMD article:

“The majority of people who undergo laminectomy do experience a reduction in their back pain symptoms. You may not know if the surgery reduced your back pain until about six weeks or more after the laminectomy.”

Causes of Spinal Laminectomy Surgery

Some of the most common underlying health conditions that lead to a spinal laminectomy procedure include:

  • Nerve pain or damage from spinal stenosis
  • Traumatic spinal cord injuries
  • Vascular malformations
  • Congenital defects
  • Spinal cord tumors
  • Bone spurs or other bony overgrowths
  • Herniated or slipped discs

A spinal laminectomy is a procedure that is commonly used to treat spinal stenosis or to relieve other pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. According to Mayo Clinic, however, it is traditionally used only when more conservative treatment options fail to relieve pain or other symptoms.

What Are the Risks of Spinal Laminectomy Surgery?

Although a spinal laminectomy is generally viewed as a relatively safe procedure, as with any spinal cord surgery, there are risks and potential complications. According to Mayo Clinic, those risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury
  • Spinal fluid leak

How Does Spinal Laminectomy Differ from Other Forms of Spinal Decompression Surgery?

A spinal laminectomy surgery differs from other types of spinal decompression procedures in their method to achieve the same overarching goal. Trying to understand the difference between a laminectomy vs laminotomy is straightforward: A laminectomy removes the entire lamina, whereas a laminotomy only removes part of the lamina. Either way, the goal is the same — to create more space in the area surrounding the spinal cord and cord nerve roots by removing the bony obstacles that impede them.

A spinal laminectomy can be performed alone or with other spinal procedures. In some cases, a laminectomy and fusion are performed at the same time, which connects two or more vertebrae are connected to stabilize the spine. Or, in some other cases, a foraminotomy is performed along with a laminectomy to increase the width of the space through which the nerve roots are housed within the spine in a procedure known as a laminoforaminotomy.

In the case of a herniated or slipped disc, a discectomy can be performed along with a spinal laminectomy to remove some or all of the damaged disc(s).

Costs Associated with Decompressive Spinal Cord Surgery

Spinal cord surgical treatments are costly. It is estimated that lumbar fusion surgeries alone range from $60,000 to $110,000 per procedure. Being able to cover the costs of such an expensive procedure can prove challenging for people with spinal cord injuries or other spinal conditions. This is why some people whose spinal conditions are due to an injury seek out legal advice to determine whether someone else may be responsible for their injuries. If someone else was negligent, they could be responsible for paying for your spinal laminectomy or other spinal cord surgery.

An experienced and knowledgeable spinal cord injury lawyer can help you determine whether someone else may have been negligent and could have caused or contributed to your injury. To learn more about your rights and to see whether you may have a case, contact our team today.

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Topics: Spinal Cord Injury, Treatment

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