Lumbar Decompression Surgery

Lumbar Decompression Surgery is a surgical procedure performed to treat conditions affecting the lower back caused by pinched nerves (neural impingement).

The objective of Lumbar Decompression Surgery is to alleviate pain and numbness in the legs, as well as to reduce pain in the lower back.

Lumbar Decompression surgery can be used to treat;

Slipped disc – where a nerve in the spine is under pressure as a result of a damaged spinal disc.

Spinal stenosis – where the spinal column becomes narrowed and causes pressure on the internal nerves.

General spinal injuries – this could be anything from a fracture to swelling of the tissue

Metastatic spinal cord compression – where cancer is spread from elsewhere in the body to the spine, and presses on the spinal cord.

Surgery

There are three main procedures involved in Lumbar Decompression Surgery and the patient will usually undergo at least one, however in many cases, a combination of these will be necessary.

Laminectomy – Where a section of vertebrae is removed to relieve pressure on the nerve. The idea is to allow more room for the nerve root and therefore reducing pain. The procedure involves the surgeon making an incision by the affected area down to the lamina (the bony arch in the back). The surgeon will then remove the ligament joining the lamina in order to gain access to the affected nerve before also removing the bone or tendon which is causing the problem.

Discectomy – During which a damaged disc is removed to alleviate pressure on the nerve. Typically used to treat leg pain caused by the herniated disc, commonly known as Sciatica. The operation is very similar to the Laminectomy, with the surgeon making the same incision before removing enough of the damaged disc to relax the pressure on the nerve.

Spinal fusion – Whereby two or more vertebrae are pieced together by a piece of bone to give more stability and support to the spine. The extra bone is usually taken from somewhere else on the body, often the hip. If this is not possible, donated bone or synthetic substitutes may be used instead.

Lumbar Decompression Surgery is almost always carried out under general anaesthetic. This means the patient will be unconscious and will not feel any pain for the duration of the operation. The procedure usually takes a few hours depending on the level of complexity and any other complications.

Recovery

The patient will be able to leave hospital between 1-4 days after the procedure. This is largely dependent on the complexity of the operation as well as the level of mobility previous to the treatment.

Most patients will find that they are able to walk without assistance within a day of having the operation but any strenuous activity should be avoided for approximately six weeks. A return to work should be expected after four to six weeks dependent on the nature of your occupation.

Around 75% of people who have the operation found that they experienced significantly less pain afterwards. Also, most patients who struggle to walk beforehand find it much more comfortable after the procedure.