A common spinal surgery is called a laminectomy.
A laminectomy is a surgical incision (cut) into the vertebra (backbone) to get access to the structures associated with the spinal cord. It is usually performed in the cervical and lumbar regions, and less often in the thoracic region. The operation is performed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves, to remove herniated intervertebral discs, or to remove tumours.
Reasons for a laminectomy
One of the most common reasons for a laminectomy in the lumbar region is a prolapsed or herniated intervertebral disc. If the herniated disc is in this region, it can cause sciatic nerve pressure with pain radiating down the leg, as well as weakening of the muscles in the leg, and some loss of sensation in the leg and foot. It may also be difficult to raise your leg when it is held in a straight position due to pain.
Another common reason for a laminectomy is degeneration or arthritis of the spine. This leads to narrowing of the pathways that nerves travel through (vertebral canal or foraminae) and can also cause sciatic nerve pressure. It may be difficult to walk due to aching or burning in the legs after short distances (claudication).
Diagnosis of spinal problems
Tests are usually performed before surgery to aid diagnosis. These tests may include:
- plain spinal x-rays
- myelogram (rarely performed)
- computerised tomography (CT) scan
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.