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Lumbar laminectomy

3-minute read

This page will give you information about a lumbar laminectomy. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is lumbar spinal stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is where the spinal canal narrows in your lower back.

The spinal canal tends to narrow as we get older caused by bony overgrowth from wear and tear in the facet joints, thickening of surrounding ligaments and bulging of the discs.

A narrowed spinal canal means that there is not enough space for the nerves and blood vessels. You may have difficulty walking and leg pain, often with a tingling sensation.

What are the benefits of surgery?

The aim is to prevent your symptoms getting worse. You may get less pain and be able to walk further. Some people have a major improvement.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

If your symptoms are mild, you may not need any treatment. If your symptoms are severe or are getting worse, surgery is usually the only option.

Illustration of a tear in the rotator cuff.
a A normal spinal canal and disc
b A disc bulge pressing the nerves within the spine

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible.

The operation usually takes 1 to 2 hours.

Your surgeon will make a vertical cut on the centre of your lower back. They will part the muscles to get to your spine. Your surgeon will remove enough bone and ligament tissue to open up the narrowed part of the canal, giving the nerves and blood vessels more room.

What complications can happen?

Some of these can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • unsightly scarring of your skin
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • difficulty passing urine
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • chest infection
  • heart attack or stroke

Specific complications of this operation

  • worse pain or numbness down your leg
  • numbness between your legs, loss of normal bowel and bladder control and, for men, problems having an erection
  • neuropathic pain. This is a burning pain that may happen once the pressure on the nerves has been released
  • tear of the thin membrane that covers the nerves in your spine
  • infection in your spine
  • spinal instability

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home after 1 to 2 days.

Do not lift anything heavy or twist your body. Make sure you keep a good posture when sitting and walking.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Spinal stenosis can sometimes come back at the same place or at a different place in your spine.

Summary

Lumbar spinal stenosis is where the spinal canal narrows in your lower back. This may cause pain or weakness in your legs. The aim of surgery is to prevent your symptoms getting worse.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

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Last reviewed: September 2019


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