A laminectomy is an operation on your lower back used to treat pain, numbness, and weakness in your back and legs.

What happens during laminectomy surgery?

Wear and tear in one or more levels of your lower spine can lead to pressure being put on the nerves inside your spinal canal. This can cause pain, numbness and weakness in your back and down your legs. In more severe cases, this can also affect your bladder and bowel, meaning you might be facing issues with incontinence.

A lower back laminectomy can help. This is usually performed under general anaesthetic, and you’ll lie face-down for the procedure. Your surgeon will make an incision in your back, which will go through the muscle. Your muscle will then be moved aside and held in place with a tool called a retractor. This will expose the lamina (the bony arch that forms the roof of the spinal canal), and a small section can then be removed to reveal the compressed nerves that cause you pain.

What happens next will depend on your problem. For example, if the pressure on your nerves is being caused by a slipped disc, your surgeon will trim the  disc down to help relieve pressure. Once the surgery is completed,  the incision will be closed and recovery can begin!

What to expect post-op

After a lower back laminectomy, it’s common to have muscle spasms. You’ll be observed closely to monitor your temperature, blood pressure and ability to pass water, as this can be affected immediately after surgery. You’ll also be given pain relief and regularly checked for redness and swelling.

You might need to be on an I.V. drip for a few days, which may include an antibiotic. You can rest in whatever position is most comfortable for you, but for the first 48 hours after your surgery, you’ll be helped in and out of bed by one of our nurses. You’ll also be shown the right way to roll over to  maintain good body alignment and avoid putting stress on the wound. You’re encouraged to walk, stand and sit for short periods and can be up and about just a few hours after your surgery! A physiotherapist will also show you how to prevent twisting, flexing or hyperextending your back while moving around.

Following an exercise programme is really important after surgery, as it’ll increase your spinal muscle strength and flexibility and protect against future injury. Occasionally, a laminectomy won’t remove symptoms entirely, but it will prevent your pain from worsening.

In some cases, patients develop chronic pain after a lumbar laminectomy. This is known as “postlaminectomy syndrome”. Some surgeons believe that removing excessive amounts of bone and ligament during this type of surgery can disturb the stability of the spinal column, causing pain. Your surgeon will discuss these risks with you before surgery. Please feel free to discuss any and all concerns you have with your Consultant so that you can feel confident with your decision, should you go ahead with the surgery.

Spine Clinic

The Spine Clinic at St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is a centre for excellence in the diagnosis, intervention and aftercare of all spinal conditions.

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Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

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Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

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