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.
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 your 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 is 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 is 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 is involved?
- neurosurgeon or orthopaedic spine surgeon
- assistant surgeon
- pathologist (if specimens are taken during surgery)
- radiologist (for x-rays)
- occupational therapist.
Considering the procedure
Alternatives to laminectomy
There are alternatives to laminectomy in some cases.
Types of laminectomy
There are 2 different ways to perform a laminectomy.
Results vs. risks of the procedure
The benefits and risks of laminectomy.
Choosing a specialist
How to find a neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in this procedure.
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