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Getting a Laminectomy: Before, During, and After

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After Your Laminectomy

Here's what will happen in the hospital or surgical center after the laminectomy:

  • You'll be transported to a "post-op" area for observation and continued monitoring of your vital signs. Most people are awake but groggy for several hours after a laminectomy.
  • Although some people go home the same day, most are admitted to the hospital for between one and five days.
  • You will feel pain in your lower back. You'll be provided strong pain medicines, which you should request as often as you need, to reduce your pain.
  • Depending on the extent of your surgery, you may need help getting out of bed and walking for up to a few days after the laminectomy.

Here's what you can expect at home after your laminectomy:

  • Expect some significant pain that needs strong medicine -- narcotics or opiates -- to control it. You shouldn't drive while you're taking opiate pain medicines. Most people can return to driving in one to two weeks. Your surgeon will let you know when it is safe to resume driving.
  • You'll need to limit your activities that include bending, stooping, or lifting for several weeks after your laminectomy.
  • You'll also need to keep the incision site clean and dry. Ask your doctor for instructions on showering and bathing.
  • Your doctor will remove your stitches or staples after about two weeks.
  • You should avoid long plane flights or car rides -- they can lead to blood clots in your legs. If you do travel, stand and walk once an hour or so.

Your recovery time will depend on the extent of your surgery and your own personal situation. In general, here's what to expect:

  • After a minor (decompressive) laminectomy, you are usually able to return to light activity (desk work and light housekeeping) within a few days to a few weeks.
  • If you also had spinal fusion with your laminectomy, your recovery time will be longer -- from two to four months.
  • Your doctor may not advise a return to full activities involving lifting and bending for two to three months.
  • You should start light walking for exercise and physical therapy exercises as soon as your doctor says you're ready. This will speed your recovery.

How will you know the results of your laminectomy? The majority of people who undergo laminectomy do experience a reduction in their back pain symptoms. You may not know if the surgery reduced your back pain until about six weeks or more after the laminectomy.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 10, 2013
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