Laminectomy means opening the back of the vertebrae to gain access to the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis is the most common indication for a laminectomy. Spinal stenosis is a medical condition which mainly affects adults older than 50 years of age. This condition is characterised by the narrowing of the spinal canal which can result in a range of problems including severe pain and weakness. A cervical laminectomy is an operation that can be performed to alleviate the pain by relieving pressure on the spinal cords and nerves. The procedure is done from the back and involves removing the laminae (bony roof of the spinal canal). Laminectomies for stenosis can be performed in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.
Other indications for a laminectomy include tumours and infection.
For this procedure you will be given a general anaesthetic so you will be asleep for the duration of the surgery. The back of your neck will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution before the incision is made. The muscles are then carefully separated from the bones. The surgeon will then use a small drill and other surgical instruments to remove the bony roof of the spinal vertebrae. The spinal cord is then either decompressed from the stenosis or the tumour removed. The muscles are placed back in position and the incision wound is sutured or stapled closed.
It takes approximately 6 weeks to fully recover. Physiotherapy is started in hospital and continued after discharge as needed. Patients are advised not to drive for 4 weeks. Patients are encouraged to be mobile (the old dictum of 3 months bed rest is obsolete). By the time of discharge, patients are mobile on their own and can perform their activities of daily living. Older patients have the option of attending a step down facility which is usually fully covered by the medical aids if further rehabilitation is needed.