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Lumbar Laminectomy

What is a lumbar laminectomy?

This decompression surgery is performed on the lower back to treat spinal stenosis or arthritis that causes muscle weakness, difficulty walking, or loss of bowel and/or bladder control. Lumbar laminectomy creates space in the spinal canal by removing the bone called the lamina, which serves as the roof of the spinal canal. The surgeon will also remove any enlarged ligaments or bone spurs that may be contributing to symptoms, including pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms and legs.

The surgery is performed when conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and medication, fail to relieve symptoms that are interfering with everyday life. It is a more invasive surgery than a laminotomy, which only removes part of the lamina.

Reasons for a lumbar laminectomy

A doctor may recommend a laminectomy for a number of reasons, including to ease pressure on a spinal nerve, treat a herniated disk, or remove a tumor. The procedure can help relieve the effects of spinal stenosis, which can be caused by injury, arthritis, degenerative conditions, or congenital defects

What to expect during surgery and recovery

While the patient is under general anesthesia, the surgeon makes a small incision over the affected vertebra and then removes the lamina and shaves any enlarged ligaments or bone spurs before closing the incision. In some cases, a fusion may be performed at the same time. Patients are usually discharged within one to three days. Most patients can resume normal activities within a few months. Your spine surgeon will give you specific information related to your particular condition and lifestyle goals, as well as a detailed description of the surgery and instructions on how to make the best recovery.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

The UTHealth Neurosciences Spine Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Anatomy of the neck and spine

The spine is divided into the following regions:

  • The cervical region (vertebrae C1-C7) encompasses the first seven vertebrae under the skull. Their main function is to support the weight of the head, which averages 10 pounds. The cervical vertebrae are more mobile than other areas, with the atlas and axis vertebra facilitating a wide range of motion in the neck. Openings in these vertebrae allow arteries to carry blood to the brain and permit the spinal cord to pass through. They are the thinnest and most delicate vertebrae.
  • The thoracic region (vertebrae T1-T12) is composed of 12 small bones in the upper chest. Thoracic vertebrae are the only ones that support the ribs. Muscle tension from poor posture, arthritis, and osteoporosis are common sources of pain in this region.
  • The lumbar region (vertebrae L1-L5) features vertebrae that are much larger to absorb the stress of lifting and carrying heavy objects. Injuries to the lumbar region can result in some loss of function in the hips, legs, and bladder control.
  • The sacral region (vertebrae S1-S5) includes a large bone at the bottom of the spine. The sacrum is triangular-shaped and consists of five fused bones that protect the pelvic organs.

Spine Disease and Back Pain


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At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.


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