Lumbar decompression surgery is carried out by a neurosurgeon and is used to resolve compressed nerves in the lumbar spine, which is the lower section of your spine. This is a highly specialised surgical procedure and is recommended when more conservative treatment options have not improved troublesome symptoms, such as numbness in the limbs and persistent pain. Here's an overview of common conditions treated with this type of spine surgery and what happens during the procedure.
Lumbar decompression surgery can be used to treat spinal stenosis, which is a chronic condition characterised by narrowing of the spinal column. It can also be used to treat a slipped disc that's causing significant pain and to resolve tissue swelling caused by a spinal injury, such as a fracture. Additionally, if you have cancerous cell growth along the spine, localised inflammation can cause the spinal cord to become compressed, and lumbar decompression surgery can be used to treat inflammation and pain.
The Surgical Procedure
As lumbar compression surgery is carried out through an incision in your lower back, you will receive a general anaesthetic and be placed face down on a curved surgical bed that will allow your surgeon to have easy access to your spine without putting too much pressure on your abdomen and chest. The size of the incision in your back will vary depending on the complexity of the surgery and whether more than one vertebra or disc is affected. There are a few different procedures that can be carried out during lumbar decompression surgery, and the specific procedure you undergo will depend on the underlying reason you are having the surgery.
The main procedures used are laminectomy, discectomy and spinal fusion. Laminectomy involves removing a section of vertebral bone to take pressure off a compressed never. Discectomy involves removing a portion of a bulging or prolapsed disc. Only the portion causing compression is removed, as the disc acts as a shock absorber between the vertebrae and is required to prevent bone friction causing pain. Spinal fusion involves using a bone graft to bind two vertebrae together, which can limit movement of the surrounding vertebrae and prevent nearby nerves becoming compressed again after surgery. The bone for the bone graft can be taken from your hip or synthetic bone can be used.
You will spend at least a few days in hospital after lumbar decompression surgery, and you will have regular follow-up appoints with your neurologist to ensure your spine has healed well and the surgery has been successful.
If your doctor thinks you're a candidate for lumbar decompression surgery, they will discuss the risks and benefits with you in detail. Before committing to having surgery, ensure you have asked any questions you have and discuss your concerns with your surgeon.