Lumbar decompression surgery treats spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal nerve roots are compressed by degenerated (worn out) portions of the lumbar spine, such as bone spurs. The compression of the nerve roots can cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling or weakness of the buttocks and legs.
During this procedure, our surgeon, Dr. LaRocca, removes the portions of the lumbar spine (usually bone spurs) that are causing the compression. The entire spine is not removed. Only the areas compressing the nerve root are removed. The decompression helps to free up space for the nerve roots and “unpinch” them. The goal of the operation is to help improve the buttock and/or leg pain. Low back pain that is in the midline of the spine may or may not improve after spinal surgery.
An incision is made down the middle of the lower back in order to access your spine. The size of the incision depends on many factors including the number of levels requiring decompression and body weight. There will generally not be any stitches to remove. There will probably be a small plastic drain that comes out near the wound. Its purpose is to keep blood clots from pooling in the wound.
Pain is addressed on an individual basis. No two people are alike. Some people have remarkably little pain and others express less than perfect pain control. Some patients may require only oral pain pill while other may require stronger medication intravenously. On some occasions patients may require a PCA pump, a device which allows the patient to give themselves doses of a very strong narcotic in the vein. The device limits the amount of narcotic to prevent overdose.
Initially, you will be given liquids to drink. Your diet will rapidly be advanced to regular food, as you tolerate it.
You may need to wear a back brace after spine surgery. The type of brace depends on the exact nature of the surgery – not everyone needs one. The brace limits back motion in order to help fusion occur. In the case of a decompression, it provides comfort and a feeling of stability. How long the brace is worn depends on the nature of the surgery you have and the quality of your bone. Generally, the brace is to be worn when up and around and may be removed for dressing, showering, or sleeping.
You will participate in physical therapy as early as the day of your lumbar decompression surgery. This is extremely important to your overall recovery from surgery for a number of reasons. Getting out of bed is good for your lungs, it prevents blood clots from forming in your legs, and it speeds your recovery. Most of the time, you will not need physical therapy after leaving the hospital. Some people will need to use a walker during their initial recovery period, others will not. Both are normal.
Your length of stay in the hospital depends on many factors, including your general medical condition and the severity of your back problem. Most people who have a one level decompression can go home on the day of their spinal surgery or one to two days after. If more levels need decompression, your hospital stay may be longer.
Patients usually go home when they can:
At the New Jersey Neck and Back Institute, our objective is getting our patients results that allow them to live happy, comfortable, and pain-free lives. Our experienced and professional medical team understands your concerns about scoliosis, a lumbar laminectomy, or partial discectomy and we’re prepared to help you understand your diagnosis and choose the treatment that’s most likely to give you the results you’re looking for.