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Spinal Decompression Surgery

What is Spinal Decompression Surgery?



what are the risks?

What is Spinal Decompression Surgery?

Spinal decompression surgery is performed to relieve lower back pain or other symptoms caused by compression of the spinal cord or the spinal nerves.

What are the symptoms of spinal nerve compression?

  • Pain – especially in the lower back (lumbar spine) – but also possibly in the neck (cervical spine) or upper back (thoracic spine)
  • Neuropathies (such as numbness or the “pins and needles” sensation of tingling)
  • Feeling of weakness or instability in the back

What kinds of spinal decompression surgeries are there?

Types of spinal decompression surgeries performed at HSS include:

  • Laminectomy: removal in one or more vertebrae of the lamina (bony roof over the spinal canal). This decompresses both sides (left and right) of the canal.
  • Laminotomy: removal of a small portion of the lamina to decompress one side (left or right) of the canal. This leaves most of the lamina intact.
  • Microdiscectomy (also known as spinal microdecompression surgery): This minimally invasive spine procedure is commonly performed on patients who have sciatica and/or a herniated disc in the lumbar section of the spine (lower back). Using muscle-sparing incisions, this removes portions of a herniated disc that is putting pressure on the spinal nerve and causing pain.
  • Microsurgical laminoplasty: a minimally invasive surgical decompression technique that uses small incisions viewed through an operating microscope. (Find a laminoplasty spine specialist.)
  • Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy (also known as endoscopic percutaneous disc removal) is similar to microdiscectomy, and uses a scope to make very small incisons in the skin through which a portion of the herniated disc that is compressing spinal nerves is removed.

What are the risks?

No surgery is without risks. General complications of any surgery include bleeding, infection, blood clots, and reactions to anesthesia. If spinal fusion is done at the same time as a laminectomy, there is greater risk of complications.

  • Nerve damage or persistent pain. 
  • Vertebrae failing to fuse.
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Hardware fracture.
  • Bone graft migration. 
  • Adjacent segment disease.

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