What is cervical laminectomy?
The spinal canal is a protective ring of bone that surrounds the spinal cord, and the spinal cord requires adequate space inside the spinal canal. Conditions such as fractures, dislocations, tumors, or degenerative changes in the discs and joints of the neck can put pressure on the spinal cord. Extra pressure within the confined space of the spinal canal can place the entire spinal cord in danger. Surgery to open the back of the spinal cord is one way to relieve the pressure that is on the spinal cord. This procedure is called laminectomy.
Who is a good candidate for cervical laminectomy?
If your pain is severe and diminishing your quality of life, you may want to consider speaking with your doctor about cervical laminectomy. If you experience one or more of the following symptoms, your doctor may recommend it:
- You have significant pain, weakness or numbness in your leg or foot
- You have more leg pain than back pain
- You have trouble walking or standing
- You have weakness or loss of bladder and bowel control
- Nonsurgical management (such as physical therapy or medications) hasn’t worked
- You have spinal stenosis
How cervical laminectomy works
Bone spurs or a herniated disc can take up space inside the spinal canal and put pressure on the spinal cord. This condition is called spinal stenosis. If spinal stenosis is the main cause of your symptoms, the spinal canal may need to be enlarged. Bone spurs that are pressing on the nerves may need to be removed. This can be achieved with a complete laminectomy (laminectomy means "remove the lamina"). Removing the lamina gives more room for the spinal cord and spinal nerves and relieves the pressure. Surgeons may also remove bone spurs that may be causing irritation and inflammation around the spinal nerves.
Are there risks associated with cervical laminectomy?
Like all surgical procedures, operations on the neck have risks. Because the surgeon is operating around the spinal cord, neck operations are always considered extremely delicate and potentially dangerous. Take time to review the risks associated with cervical spine surgery with your doctor. Make sure you are comfortable with both the risks and the benefits of the procedure planned for your treatment.
What happens after surgery?
You'll be able to get up and begin moving within a few hours after surgery. Your doctor may have placed you in a neck collar after surgery. Limit your activities to avoid doing too much too soon. Most patients are able to return home when their medical condition is stabilized, usually within a few days after surgery.