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How Lumbar Decompression Surgery Is Performed

Lumbar decompression surgery is used to relieve unnecessary pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This compression may be caused by a variety of spinal cord issues such as excessive spinal bone mass, a compromised spinal disc shape or size, or overly mobile vertebrates. There are three primary procedures used to perform the surgery; laminectomy, discectomy, and spinal fusion. The procedure type will be determined by your doctor after evaluating your case. For specific situations, you may receive a keyhole surgery or an interspinous distraction. These are alternative procedures that should result in the same outcome as traditional techniques but provide a much quicker recovery.

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Relieve Lower Back Pain With
Lumbar Decompression Surgery

If you experience persistent lower back pain or numbness in your legs due to excessive pressure on your spinal cord nerves, you may require spinal decompression surgery. Spinal decompression surgery is used to treat compressed nerves in your lower spine, decreasing pain and improving your quality of life.

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What Will Happen

You will be admitted into the hospital either the day of or one day before your surgery. Once you arrive your surgeon and anesthetist will explain each step of the surgical procedure and answer any questions you might have.  
During the surgery, you will lay your face down on a mattress designed to curve in a way that will allow the surgeon to easily access the surgical site. You will be asleep during the procedure and not feel any pain. The operation often takes at least one hour but this can differ depending on the complexity of each case. 
An incision will be made on your back, along your spine. The back of your spine will be exposed by lifting the muscles from your backbone. The necessary tissue will be removed from your spine in small sections, incrementally relieving the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve. Once the optimal decompression is achieved, your muscles will be stitched back together and the incision will be closed.    

Procedure Types

Lumbar decompression surgery can achieve the desired results using different techniques. The specific procedure you will receive will depend on the reason you require the surgery. The three primary procedures used for spinal decompression include:

  • Laminectomy: This procedure decompresses the spinal cord by removing areas of bone and tissues that are putting undue pressure on your spinal cord. 
  • Discectomy: A discectomy will be performed if your spinal pressure is caused by a bulging or slipped disc. To lessen the pressure, a part of the problem disc will be removed as needed. In general, most of the disc will remain. 
  • Spinal Fusion: If two or more vertebrae have excessive movement, a spinal fusion will be performed to fuse the vertebrae together. This is done by adding a section of bone in between the targeted vertebrae. The added bone could be synthetic or harvested from another part of the body such as the hip. Fusing the vertebrates together will limit the movement that is causing pressure on the nearby nerves.
Keyhole Surgery

Depending on your case, you may be eligible for an alternative surgical technique called keyhole surgery. Keyhole surgery is a microendoscopic surgery that is done using a tiny camera and operating tools that are inserted through a small incision on the back. The surgery is viewed on a screen that shows the camera’s view of the spinal cord. 
An advantage keyhole surgery provides is a much quicker recovery time. Disadvantages relate to the newness of the techniques involved. It poses a higher risk of accidental injuries caused by the surgery as the safety and effectiveness of the surgery are not yet completely known. 

Interspinous Distraction

If you have spinal stenosis, you may receive an interspinous distraction rather than the traditional forms of decompressive procedures. This will entail a small incision made above the spine where a metal disc will be inserted in between two vertebrae. This disc will limit the movement of the vertebrae that has been causing irritation on the nerves. Similar to keyhole surgery, this is a new technique with undetermined long-term effectiveness. There is also the potential risk of the metal spacer moving out of place, requiring further surgery. 

Lumbar Decompression Surgery: A Solution Only If Needed

Spinal decompression surgery is a last resort treatment for lower back pain. If you experience lower back pain, consult your doctor and ensure you have tried all non-surgical options first. If pain persists or the non-surgical treatments are negatively impacting your quality of life, you will be referred for spinal decompression surgery. 
If lumbar decompression surgery has been recommended by your physician and you have further questions or concerns about the procedure, ask our surgical care team at 250-868-9799 or fill in our online form.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long will the spinal incision be?

The size of the incision will be determined based on the surgical technique being used and the number of vertebrae needing treatment, the surgery’s complexity, and if fusion is being used.
What are the risks of lumbar decompression surgery?

Although spinal decompression surgery is generally successful it still poses certain risks to be aware of. Risks associated with lumbar decompression surgery include:

  • Infection in the area of operation
  • Blood clotting or deep vein thrombosis
  • Damage to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves

What type of surgeon will perform my lumbar decompression surgery?

Lumbar decompression surgery is performed by either a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon with solid experience in spinal surgery.


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