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Getting a Laminectomy: Before, During, and After

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During Your Laminectomy continued...

Next, the surgeon will perform the laminectomy:

  • The surgeon will make an incision in the skin of your back over the affected area. The muscles and soft tissues around the spine will be pulled to the side, exposing the spine.
  • The surgeon will then cut away bone, bone spurs, and ligaments that are compressing nerves. This is referred to as decompression. The surgeon may remove a small part or a large portion of several spinal bones, depending on your reason for the operation.
  • Some people may also undergo spinal fusion to stabilize the spine, receive a special implant that will help stabilize the bones in the lower back but not restrict motion in the same way a fusion does, have a disc removed, or have additional removal of bone to widen the passageway where nerves leave the spinal canal.

At the end of the surgery, the wound will be stitched, you'll be turned back over, the anesthesia will be turned off, and the breathing tube will be removed.

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.
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