After laminectomy or laminotomy, about 70- 80% of people enjoy significant improvement in their symptoms, including reductions in pain and discomfort. However, around 14% of people need another surgery within 3.5 years. It’s more effective at relieving referred pain caused by a compressed nerve, than back pain. Over time, if the process that caused your initial problem (e.g. osteoarthritis) progresses, then the problem is likely to recur.
Unless your symptoms are severe, or you have pain, tingling or numbness in your arms and legs consistent with myelopathy (compression of your spinal cord), it’s probably safe to delay surgery until you’ve explored other treatment options.
Be sure to talk to your GP before deciding on further treatment.
As with any medical procedure there are some potential risks. The chance of complications depends on the exact type of procedure that you’re having and other factors including your general health.
The main risks with laminectomy surgery are:
- tear of the dura (the protective sheath around the spinal nerves), which can cause a leak of spinal fluid (1% to 14%)
- infection (2% to 5%)
- post-operative bleeding (1% to 5%)
- nerve injury (1% to 5%)
- spinal instability
- blood clots (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) – rare.
Long-term complications include:
- return of the problem (after 5-10 years)
- lack of pain relief (or worsening of symptoms)
- increased degeneration of the surrounding bones (known as adjacent segment disease)
- spinal instability requiring instrumentation and fusion.
Ask your surgeon about the results and risks associated with your procedure. Also ask about their own rates of patient satisfaction and the rate of complications following the procedures they’ve performed.