Quick Facts

Possible Symptoms
  • Leg pain, numbness, and/or weakness
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence
  • Worse with standing or walking
  • Better with sitting or leaning forward
Typical X-Ray Findings
  • Narrow spinal canal with crowded nerve roots (MRI, CT myelogram).
Average Procedure Time
  • 1.5 hours

Average Recovery Time
  • Home the same or next day
  • Off work 2-8 weeks, depending on duties
Postperative Limitations
  • No bending, twisting, lifting, or strenuous exercises (8 weeks)
  • No driving while on narcotics

The Procedure

Laminectomies are performed via posterior approaches,that is, from behind, whether they are in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine.  An incision is made over the affected area, and  bone is removed until the ligaments come into view.  The ligaments are then carefully removed until the nerve roots and the thecal sac containing them are fully exposed and decompressed.


If a disc herniation is contributing to the narrowing of the spinal canal, a lumbar microdiscectomy may be perfomed after the laminectomy is complete.

Traditional Laminectomy vs. Minimally Invasive Laminectomy

LL The Old Way

An incision is made in the midline. Muscle is burned and then peeled off of enough of the spine in order to expose the bone that needs to be removed. A spiked retractor holds the muscle off of the bone while the laminectomy is performed.

LL The New Way

An incision is made 1-2 centimeters off of the midline. Muscle bundles are separated bluntly (with a gloved finger) through natural tissue planes in order to place a fiberoptically lit tubular retractor. The tubular retractor is angled in order to view and remove bone and ligaments causing nerve root compression on both sides.