Any surgery that relieves compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves is considered to be decompression surgery. If the compression results from a disc herniation, the surgery is a discectomy. If the compression is because of a narrowed spinal canal that is placing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, this surgery is a laminectomy. A laminectomy removes the back wall of the spinal canal to create more space for the spinal cord.
Conditions Treated with Decompression Surgery
Decompression surgery is performed for the treatment of stenosis, radicular pain, spondylosis or other conditions associated with nerve compression.
What to Expect Before Decompression Surgery
Once you have decided to have neck or back surgery, the following events take place:
- A medical examination.
- Chest X-ray, EKG and blood work.
- You may be asked to have a neurological or psychological examination.
- If taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications daily, stop these medications at least one week before surgery.
- If you take prescription medications or other drugs, including herbals, ask your doctor how soon you should stop taking these before neck or back surgery.
- Do not have anything to eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
- You will check into the hospital the morning of decompression surgery.
- Prior to surgery, you will be asked to sign consents for surgery, anesthesia, blood and blood products.
What to Expect During Decompression Surgery
- An incision is made in the low back area (or in the back of the neck if cervical surgery).
- Fluoroscopy, a method used to make images, is used to determine the correct level(s) to be operated.
- The tissue, most commonly bone and ligament, that is compressing on the nerve(s) is removed.
- Sometimes fusion is performed after the decompression to stabilize the operated area.
- Surgery takes approximately 1-4 hours.
Recovery from Decompression Surgery
Recovery from decompression surgery is usually relatively brief, but it varies greatly among patients and is dependent on the age and health of the individual. Return to work also varies greatly among patients and is related to overall health and the type of work you do.
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