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Laminectomy is a type of decompression surgery that is done to relieve pressure on a spinal nerve. The surgery involves removing the lamina, the bony, cartilage that covers the back of the spinal cord. By removing the lamina, the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels have more space to relax. It is normally done to treat injuries and provide relief from the pain and pressure put on the spine due to bony overgrowth, herniated discs or a tumor. Most patients respond to conservative treatment of medication and physical therapy, but in worsening cases, surgery may be required for the patient to get relief from pain.

Learn what to expect from surgery

Under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes a three- to four-inch incision over the affected vertebra and moves muscle aside. If the patient is having the surgery due to a herniated disc, a discectomy is done to remove the portion of the disc that is causing pain. If a vertebra has relocated over another vertebra, spinal fusion may be necessary to stabilize the region. This involves grafting a tiny section of bone – normally taken from the patient’s pelvic region – onto the spine and connecting it using specialized screws and rods to support it.

Some patients may be able to go home the same day, but others may need to be hospitalized for a few days, especially if spinal fusion is performed.

Once home, patients should refrain from lifting or bending for several weeks. Sitting or riding in a car for long periods of time may also be uncomfortable for the next four to six weeks. Based on the duties of the job, most patients return to work in two to six weeks. Spinal fusion requires a longer recovery period. In those cases, it may take several months to return to normal activities.