What is Lumbar Discectomy and Laminectomy?

This minimally invasive procedure is performed through an incision down the center of the back over the area of the herniated disc. The muscles are moved to the side so that the surgeon can see the back of the vertebrae.

Dr. Karen Johnston

Dr. Karen Johnston

Neurosurgeon
Toronto, ON
Dr. Paul Kongkham

Dr. Paul Kongkham

MD PhD FRCSC
Neurosurgeon
Toronto, ON
Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul

Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul

MD, MSc, FRCSC
Neurosurgeon
Vancouver, BC

Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Neurosurgeon, discusses lumbar discectomy and laminectomy.

Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Neurosurgeon, discusses post spinal surgery recovery.

Quiz: Do You Understand Lumbar Spine Surgery?

Test your knowledge by answering the following questions:

Questions
True
False
1

Lumbar back pain is the most common type of back pain.

Explanation:
Back pain can be cervical (neck pain), thoracic (middle back pain), lumbar (lower back pain) or tailbone or sacral (coccydynia). Lumbar back pain is the most common type.
2

Lumbar back pain symptoms include shooting or stabbing pain.

Explanation:
Lumbar back pain symptoms include shooting or stabbing pain, pain that radiates down the leg, muscle aches, pain that worsens when you walk, lift something, bend or stand and/or improves when you recline.
3

Lumbar back surgery may be used to treat a slipped disc and sciatica.

Explanation:
Lumbar back surgery may be used to treat a slipped disc and sciatica, which occurs when a spinal disc presses down on a nerve; spinal stenosis, a narrowing of a section of the spinal column that puts pressure on nerves and spinal injuries including a fracture.
4

If you and your orthopedic surgeon decide that lumbar decompression surgery is right for you, he or she will perform all of these procedures.

Explanation:
If you and your orthopedic surgeon decide that lumbar decompression surgery is right for you, he or she will perform one or more of these procedures: discectomy to remove part of a damaged disc to relieve pressure on a nerve; laminectomy to remove bone from one of your vertebrae to relieve pressure on a nerve and/or spinal fusion to join together two or more vertebrae with a section of bone to strengthen the spine.
5

Following your lumbar spine surgery, you’ll leave the hospital within five to ten days.

Explanation:
Following your lumbar spine surgery, you’ll leave the hospital within one to four days. You’ll start walking in the hospital, and will be able to return to work after four to six weeks with some restrictions.
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What is Lumbar Discectomy and Laminectomy?

Some of the most common operations that we do for the spine are lumbar microdiscectomy and lumbar laminectomy.

So lumbar fusion surgery is sometimes necessary for back pain, but in that situation one has to carefully correlate the clinical findings with the imaging findings. For most of the common back operations that we do, lumbar discectomy or lumbar laminectomy, a fairly small incision is made in the back approximately inch, inch-and-a-half in length.

Using microsurgical techniques we expose the nerves that are compressed and remove the offending herniated disc or bone spurs that are causing nerve compression, and this is an example of a disc herniation that may cause pressure on the nerves.

And again that’s a fairly quick operation with a very good success rate often requiring no more than 45 minutes to an hour of surgical time, blood loss is minimal, perhaps no more than two teaspoons of blood is lost, and patients are usually up and about within a few hours of surgery and quite often they can leave the same day.  Sometimes it may require an overnight stay.

And these surgeries are actually very effective in relieving symptoms of sciatica, so pain, numbness, weakness in the legs, and the response is almost always immediate.  Sometimes lumbar fusion surgery is necessary, which is a bigger operation, and the indications are very different.

Lumbar fusion is necessary if somebody has a deformity or instability in the spine. It’s a bigger operation, but even so with current techniques available we can usually do that surgery through fairly small incisions. Nevertheless, it does require a few more days in the hospital.

But the important thing to recognize is that lumbar fusion is very rarely necessary for sciatica or spinal stenosis. It can be helpful for situations of back pain, but the clinical symptoms need to be correlated with the imaging findings.

So one of the most important things to recognize and appreciate is that while spine surgery can be very helpful, it is reserved for a specific condition such as disc herniations, spinal stenosis, spinal deformity, and it’s rarely needed for situations such as back pain alone, which is usually treated conservatively.

When spine surgery is necessary, there are a number of different options in terms of how to perform the surgery, but the important thing to recognize is that if the indications are correct, and the correct surgery is chosen, the results with spinal surgical procedures are very satisfying.

Presenter: Dr. Ramesh Sahjpaul, Neurosurgeon, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Neurosurgeon

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