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Cervical Laminectomy

Cervical laminectomy is a decompression surgery of the cervical (neck) spine that is performed to create space in the spinal canal by removing bone called the lamina, as well as any enlarged ligaments causing pressure.  The lamina is the back part of the vertebra that covers the spine, and bony overgrowths – sometimes called bone spurs – that develop here can cause compression and narrowing of the spine that leads to pain, weakness or numbness in the extremities. 

Cervical laminectomy is most commonly performed to treat spinal stenosis, or arthritis of the spine that can cause myelopathy.  The procedure may be recommended when myelopathy symptoms such as muscle weakness, difficulty walking, loss of bowel and/or bladder control, or radiating pain in the extremities are not resolved by more conservative therapies such as physical therapy and medication. 

Procedure

During the procedure, the patient is under general anesthesia, and the surgeon makes an incision down the middle of the back of the neck to allow access to the cervical spine.  The surgeon uses small instruments to move soft tissue and ligaments off the spine in order to then remove the necessary lamina, shave any bony overgrowths and remove any remaining fragments before closing the incision. 

Recovery

Once surgery is complete, the patient will remain in the hospital for monitoring and treatment of postsurgical pain with medication.  Most patients will wear a soft neck collar following surgery to stabilize the spine, and are encouraged to begin walking in the hospital within a few hours of surgery once they have recovered from the anesthesia.

It is normal for continued pain immediately after surgery, particularly around the incision. Patients are typically discharged within one to three days, and most will be encouraged to return to light activity within the first one to two weeks.

Outpatient physical therapy may be prescribed to help with pain and inflammation and to regain function and control of the neck muscles.  Recovery times vary for every patient, but on average, patients recover within a few months and can resume normal activities.

Neck and Spine Regions

In medical terminology, the spine is divided into regions that correspond to their position along the vertebrae in the backbone. These sections are:

  • Cervical vertebrae in the neck (C1-C7)
  • Thoracic vertebrae in the chest-level or upper back segment (T1-T12)
  • Lumbar vertebrae in the lower back (L1-L5)
  • Sacral vertebrae in the pelvic region (S1-S5)

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