Laminectomy and discectomy are two different major surgical procedures, where a small portion of the bone or other tissue is removed from the backbone. They are commonly performed for back pain and spine conditions.
The recovery time for laminectomy or discectomy depends on how much tissue is removed and the location of the surgery. Additionally, age, comorbidities, and muscle tone play a role.
It usually takes between six weeks and six months or longer for a complete recovery. The rate of recovery depends on postoperative care. Hence, postoperative physiotherapy is vital after the procedure.
What is a laminectomy?
The lamina is the flattened or arched part of the vertebral arch. They form the roof of the spinal canal.
Laminectomy is surgery, where some tissues of the vertebrae (lamina) are removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
- The spinal cord runs through the bony structures of the backbone (vertebrae) that act as a cage to protect it.
- Spinal nerves come out through small gaps between the bony structures.
Laminectomy is done when any structural changes in the vertebrae compress the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
The vertebrae structure may be deformed by:
Compression of the spinal cord or nerves may lead to pain and stiffness in the backbone, numbness, and pain and weakness in the muscles supplied by the impaired nerve, causing impairment of bodily movements.
A laminectomy is performed on the cervical, lumbar, and sacral vertebra but never done on the thoracic vertebra.
What is a discectomy?
A vertebral disc is a tough, cartilaginous structure that connects one bone vertebra with another. Vertebral discs hold several vertebras to form a backbone; they even act as shock absorbers and protect vertebrae from external force. Discectomy is done when there is any disc bulge, which is also called a herniated disc.
A herniated disc is a condition where the disc ruptures and comes out of the vertebrae. This compresses the spinal cord and nerves, which leads to various complications, such as tingling, weakness, and pain to the muscles that are supplied by the damaged nerve.
Discectomy may be done in the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral vertebra. Age increases the risk of disc hernia. With increasing age, the disc degenerates and collapses, but improper physical movements may cause disc herniation.
What are the complications associated with laminectomy and discectomy?
Laminectomy and discectomy surgical procedures are performed either by an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon. These procedures are risky and should be done by an experienced surgeon.
Sometimes they may not cure the actual problem but reduce the risk of progression of the abnormality. These procedures are done either under the influence of general anesthesia or regional anesthesia. The patient may have complications related to anesthesia post-surgery.
Complications related to the surgery on vertebrae include:
- Bone infection
- Injury to the spinal cord
- Leaking of spinal fluid
- Formation of blood clots
- Injury to surrounding organs, such as the esophagus, intestines, nerves, and blood vessels
- Fragments of the disc or bone may get displaced, which may require another surgery to remove them
- The pain and other symptoms may not relieve even after surgery
- There may be a relapse of the symptoms
- Difficulty walking post-surgery
How can you reduce the risk of complications?
One could reduce the risk of complications by following a few precautions.
- Inform the doctor about any known allergies to medications.
- The patients should exercise, maintain a good diet and modify their lifestyle to lose weight before and after surgery.
- Seek medical attention if there is bleeding, fever, drainage, and discomfort.
- Do not smoke a few days before surgery, and it is recommended to quit smoking after surgery.
- Certain medications, such as blood thinners and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are to be stopped before surgery.
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Estefan M, Camino Willhuber GO. Laminectomy. [Updated 2021 Jul 31]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542274/
Butler AJ, Donnally III CJ. Discectomy. [Updated 2021 Jan 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544281/
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