Spine in the neck i.e. cervical spine consists of seven bones called vertebrae. Soft cartilage discs called intervertebral discs are located between the vertebrae to provide a cushion and reduce the stress. The spinal cord passes through the vertebral canal formed by these cervical vertebrae.
Over time problems like shrinking or herniated disc, bone spurs or any other degenerative disc conditions can narrow the vertebral canal putting pressure on the spinal cord or its branch nerves. This spinal cord compression can cause further damage to the spinal tissues inducing pain, numbness, and weakness in legs, arms or other body parts making it difficult to carry out normal functions. This condition is called cervical spinal stenosis.
Cervical Laminectomy is the surgical procedure that is performed by a spine surgeon to relieve pressure on the spinal cord caused by cervical spinal stenosis. As the name suggests cervical i.e. relating to the neck and laminectomy i.e. removal of the lamina, the bone that encloses the spinal cord in the vertebral canal.
Cervical Laminectomy is performed by the spine specialist only after the non-surgical treatment procedures like pain medication and physical therapy do not provide adequate relief from the pain.
Procedure of Cervical Laminectomy:
Under general anaesthesia, a 3 to 4-inch incision is made vertically along the mid-line of the neck. The spinal surgeon then cuts the affected lamina/laminas on both sides and the lamina is removed along with the spinous process. In a few cases, cervical spinal fusion where the vertebrae are fused into a single unit with bone graft, rods and screws may be performed to stabilize the spine.
Post-surgery & Recovery:
A neck brace is suggested for the patients after the surgery. The post-surgical neck pain is controlled with both oral and intravenous pain medications. Patients are discharged after the surgery within 2 to 3 days from the facility.
The severity of the condition before the surgery is the major factor affecting the recovery after the Cervical Laminectomy. Age, general health and overall lifestyle also play a part in the pace of recovery after any surgery.
Moreover, the neck is a complex body part which facilitates the movement and bears the weight of the head. It becomes very difficult to give it a rest after the surgery unlike an arm or a leg and it is not possible to exactly calculate the recovery time as it depends on many other external factors. However, your spinal surgeon is well aware of your condition can help you chart a plan to improve the pace of the recovery.
Pressure on the spinal cord from the back can lead to myelopathy. This pressure can be surgically removed by way of laminectomy or laminoplasty. The pros and cons of each operation with reference to the natural history of the cause of the pressure, with and without surgery, should be discussed fully.