A lumbar laminectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a small portion of a vertebra, or back bone in the lower back (lumbar). Lumbar laminectomy is usually done to take pressure off the spinal cord or a spinal nerve. It may also be done to access the spinal cord, bones and discs below the lamina, or the removed part of the bone.
Spinal problems such as ruptured discs, bony spurs, or other problems can cause narrowing of the canals that the nerves and spinal cord run through. If it gets too narrow, it can irritate the nerve, causing pain in the leg, numbness or weakness. A laminectomy is often performed along with a disc removal to help make the canal larger and take pressure off the irritated nerve.
At UPMC, our neurosurgeons perform lumbar laminectomy with minimally invasive techniques. The surgeon will make a few small incisions and insert a scope and small instruments into the area. The lamina is removed using a drill or other tools. Once the lamina is removed, the surgeon can inspect the spinal cord and discs that were hidden under the lamina.
In some cases, open surgery is necessary, and involves making a larger incision in the skin over the problem area of the lower back. Depending on the cause of the patient’s symptoms, the disc may need to be removed, or a spinal fusion may necessary. The procedure typically takes one to three hours and requires a one- to three-day stay in the hospital.