Using this guide What's covered

Here you’ll find answers to many of your questions about a spinal surgery called laminectomy. Learn how it’s done, what it may cost, what your recovery may be like, and more.

To see how the surgery’s performed, view our animation below. For personal insights, see our patient experience videos in which HCF members talk frankly about their preparation, surgery and recovery.

Before deciding on laminectomy, be sure to check out other back pain treatments first.

Cost Indicator

Discover the typical out-of-pocket costs HCF members can expect to pay for laminectomy and learn how your choice of surgeon and hospital affect that cost.
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The basics

What is laminectomy?

Laminectomy surgery aims to create extra space in your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the nerves in your spinal cord or the nerve roots. It’s used to treat narrowing of the canal due to osteoarthritis, herniated disc, enlarged ligaments, cysts or tumours. It’s also used to treat spinal stenosis which normally affects the lower back (lumbar spine) or the neck (cervical spine).

People with spinal stenosis often complain of back pain as well as referred pain – which can include discomfort, weakness and numbness in their buttocks and legs, including sciatica (pain radiating down the back of the leg). They can also experience weak legs when standing or walking, known as neurogenic claudication. They occasionally have problems with bladder or bowel function, known as cauda equina syndrome.

If nerves in your neck are affected, you could have neck pain and weakness and tingling in your arms and hands. It can also affect your lower body. This is known as myelopathy.

How's it done?

During the procedure, your surgeon makes an incision in your back or neck, then trims away the bone and ligaments at the back of your spine (known as the lamina) — and possibly the part of a herniated disc — to make more room for the nerves.

Laminotomy is a similar procedure where your surgeon creates a small ‘window’ in the lamina.

Where's it done?

A laminectomy is done in a hospital. The average length of stay is 1–7 days but some procedures can be done as day surgery.

How long does it take?

It depends on the complexity of the surgery but laminectomy can take from 1–4 hours.

Who's involved?

In addition to a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic spinal surgeon, it also involves:

  • an anaesthetist
  • nurses
  • a pathologist (if specimens are taken during surgery)
  • a radiologist (for x-rays)
  • a physiotherapist
  • an occupational therapist.

Learn about laminectomy

This short animation shows how your surgeon can perform a laminectomy.

Learn about posterior cervical laminectomy

Learn how a posterior cervical laminectomy is done.

The details

Considering the procedure

Alternatives to laminectomy

There are alternatives to laminectomy in some cases.
Learn more

Types of laminectomy

There are 2 different ways to perform a laminectomy.
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Results vs. risks of the procedure

The benefits and risks of laminectomy.
Learn more

Choosing a specialist

How to find a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
Learn more


Questions for your specialist

What you should ask before going ahead with laminectomy.
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Preparing for your procedure

Pre-operative tests and preparation prior to laminectomy.
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Your anaesthetic options

About your anaesthesia options and post-op pain relief.
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Your procedure

Going to hospital

What to expect on the day of your surgery.
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Your procedure

What happens in the operating theatre.
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Recovery and aftercare

After your procedure

Your hospital stay.
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Resuming activities and watching for problems.
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The importance of a personalised rehab program.
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People who’ve had spine surgery talk about their preparation, hospital stay and recovery.


View videos


Eligible HCF members can get a free, confidential second opinion on their health condition from a certified, practising medical specialist based in Australia. 
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Important information

Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.