Spinal decompression

Spinal decompression may be performed on any part of the spine. The front part of the spinal column consists of vertebra, discs, as well as a dural sac filled with fluid surrounding the spinal cord and nerves, while the back of the spinal cord has facet joints and laminae. There are two types of surgeries performed for spinal decompression namely, laminectomy and laminotomy. Both of these spinal decompression surgeries are done to remove part of the laminae from the back of the spinal cord to relieve pressure in the spine most commonly caused by stenosis, sciatica, a bulging or herniated disc.

Why would a laminectomy or laminotomy be done?

A spinal decompression may be needed for those who experience numbness, tingling, heaviness and aching from the buttocks down through the leg causing weakness and inability to walk. These symptoms may be brought about by spinal stenosis or bone spurs which cause pinched nerves, or even facet cyst, fracture, and tumors. A spinal decompression surgery may be able to relieve these symptoms by removing part of the laminae (laminotomy) or the entire laminae (laminectomy) to alleviate the pressure.

How is spinal decompression surgery performed?

Dr Khumalo will begin by making an incision in your back to expose the laminae of the spinal cord after which he will use a microscope to get a better view of the laminae. Depending on whether your orthopaedic surgeon has decided to perform a laminectomy or laminotomy, either the entire laminae will be removed, or only part thereof.

In addition, Dr Khumalo may remove all or part of a herniated disc, or bone spurs causing nerve compression. Your orthopaedic surgeon may also then perform a foraminotomy or spinal fusion before closing your incisions.

What will recovery entail?

Although this is regarded as an invasive surgery, your spine will be stable immediately after surgery. You will be asked to get out of bed and begin walking as soon as one day after surgery to improve mobility. Dr Khumalo will prescribe you pain medications to relieve any pain and discomfort. These medications may inhibit the function of your bladder, and thus a catheter may be needed for the first two days after surgery. You should be able to go home after two or three days depending on what other surgeries were done in conjunction with the spinal decompression.

As your nerves, muscles and tissues adapt to having the pressure removed, you may be as active as your pain allows you. Depending on the surgery you have had, you may return to work after 4 weeks of recovery. Vigorous activity and exercise should be avoided until 6 weeks after surgery. You will be advised by Dr Khumalo to do exercises with the help of physiotherapy to help regain strength and mobility. Walking may aid in strengthening muscles, improving endurance as well as allowing proper blood flow. You will be advised to avoid heavy lifting, bending and twisting of the back and upright sitting for periods longer than 30 minutes at a time, during recovery.

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Dr Dlozi Khumalo is a compassionate Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon with a keen interest in spinal conditions, hip and knee replacements, hand & foot surgery and limb reconstructive surgery. Feel free to make an appointment at his Benoni based practice.

Suite 4, 2nd Floor, Sunshine Hospital, 1522 Soma Street, Actonville, Benoni, 1501

+27 (0)11 898 8000