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Laminectomy (Laminotomy)

By Editorial Team (2)
January 31, 2022

Your spine consists of vertebrae, all stacked in a column, called the spinal column. The vertebrae are a unique shape, and their job is to hold the body upright and to protect the spinal cord, which runs through them. Each backbone or vertebra has two laminae. These laminae are arch-shaped and are located closer to the internal body than the outside of the body. Other parts of the vertebra are located near the laminae: the facet joint and the spinal process. 

The laminae are made of bone and they rarely cause problems. However, surgery on them can be helpful in other conditions. Spinal conditions may cause severe pain if the spinal cord or nearby nerves are compressed. Operations performed on the laminae can help to make the spinal column wider, which relieves the pressure and pain. Surgery on the laminae is also used to help treat spinal deformities.

What is the Difference Between Laminectomy and Laminotomy?

Sometimes even doctors and nurses interchange these two words, but there is a distinction. In a laminectomy, the lamina is completely removed. Only a portion of the lamina is removed in a laminotomy.

Reasons for a laminectomy or laminotomy

The main reason for either of these procedures is to remove the pressure from the nerves near the spinal cord or from the spinal cord itself.

Even though a portion of the vertebra is removed, the spinal cord remains protected inside the spinal column which consists of hard backbones, even when a laminectomy or laminotomy is performed.

Some conditions these procedures are used to treat include the following:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Sciatica
  • Herniated disc
  • Spondylosis
  • Spinal stenosis

Other reasons for laminotomy or laminectomy

Sometimes during the course of another procedure on the spine, the surgeon may need to remove part of or the entire lamina to gain access to the vertebra or the disc that needs repair. For instance, if a herniated disc cannot be easily accessed without removing part of the lamina, a laminotomy may be performed. If a tumor is located near the vertebrae, a laminectomy may be needed before the mass can be extracted.

What to Expect from Laminectomy/Laminotomy

Laminectomy and laminotomy procedures are performed for many different conditions, so much depends on your underlying condition. Discuss your particular situation with your doctor. In general, if the lamina are easily removed and no further measures need to be taken to support the spine, your rehabilitation and recovery could be very quick. If other procedures are necessary to stabilize the spine, such as spinal fusion, recovery may take more time.

The World Health Organization reports that the majority of patients who underwent laminectomy or laminotomy surgery on their lower back had recovered to their normal state of health within one year after surgery. While these operations can take pressure off the spinal cord and the nerves, they do not stop the normal process of wear and tear that leads to degeneration, or other underlying causes such as obesity. This means the relief they provide may not be permanent.

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