Procedures: Laminectomy / Laminotomy


What is a Laminectomy?

illustration “unroofing” the spineThe laminectomy surgery is designed to remove a portion of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material from under the nerve root to give the nerve root more space and a better healing environment. This procedure is also called a spinal decompression. During the procedure, the Lamina (a part of the vertebra in the back) and sometimes part of the Facet Joints (moveable joints that allow flexibility in the spine) are removed to allow room for the nerves. They are usually compressed because of a degenerative process in the spine.

Why is the procedure performed?

A laminectomy can be performed on all regions of the spinal column (lumbar, thoracic,and cervical) to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots.The most common reason to consider this procedure is to treat spinal stenosis, or it may be used to treat Sciatica which causes numbness or weakness in your leg(s). The cause of these symptoms is usually a progressive degenerative process in the spine where the facet joints enlarge, the disc bulges and the ligament becomes thicker. When things like this occur, they compress the nerves to the legs and can cause some serious symptoms. Spinal stenosis is a condition that primarily afflicts elderly patients, and is caused by degenerative changes that result in enlargement of the facet joints. The enlarged joints then place pressure on the nerves, and this pressure may be effectively relieved with a lumbar laminectomy. A laminectomy can be effective to decrease pain and improve function for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis.

If you are having surgery it usually means that the symptoms have not gone away with other treatments such as physiotherapy, rest, anti-inflamatory medications in either oral or injectable form. A Laminectomy of the spine can be used to treat the following conditions:

  • Bone Spurs
  • Pinched Nerve
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Herniated Disc
  • Bulging Disc
  • Scar Tissue Formation
  • Arthritis of the Spine

What is the difference between a Laminectomy and a Laminotomy?

Laminectomy, often referred to as “unroofing” the spine, involves the complete removal (in Latin "ectomy" means removal) of various parts of the vertebrae, including:

  • the lamina, as well as the attached ligaments, that cause compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots, and/or
  • enlarged facets, osteophytes and bulging disc material

Laminotomy is where only a small portion of the lamina is removed to relieve local pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. (in latin "otomy" is the act of cutting or incision)


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