Healthy Living

What Are the Risks to a Laminectomy?

What Are the Risks to a Laminectomy?

Key Takeaways

  • If you are unable to bend your knees or move your foot, then surgery is definitely recommended.
  • Like any other type of surgery, the lumbar decompression laminectomy has some risks and complications as well.
  • Surgical wound infections are one of the most commonly known laminectomy complications.

Your doctor will first attempt to give you other alternative treatments before recommending surgery. If your back pain still persists after treatment, your doctor may suggest for surgery as one of the solutions. Laminectomy is the most probable surgical procedure that you will have to undergo.

Facts About Back Pain

  • Back pain is considered to be the second most cause of missed work days just behind common colds. It has lead to a reduction in work productivity more than any other health complication.
  • It is believed to affect more Whites than any other racial groups.
  • The cases of back pain are more common in men than women.
  • It mostly affects people between 45 and 64 years old.
  • Acute back pain is in most cases caused by a muscle strain.
  • Chronic back pain is usually caused by a lumbar disk disease or by the degeneration of the lumbar vertebrae.

Back Pain That Can Lead to Surgery

  • When the most painful area is in the lower part of your back.
  • If you have sciatica from a herniated disk. Sciatica pain may affect one or both legs that originate from the back through the buttocks.
  • The disk absorbs the shock that is directed to the spine. The disk has an inner sac filled with jelly-like substances. When the disk is herniated, the jelly-like substance will be pushed toward the tough ring surrounding it and this will put pressure on the nearby nerve roots.
  • If you lose control of your bowel and bladder as well as nerve function. 

Surgery for Back Pain

Your doctor will first attempt to give you other alternative treatments before recommending surgery. Surgery is recommended by your doctor if your back pain still persists after treatment. Moreover, surgery will especially be influenced by the pain and its effects on your day-to-day activities. You and your doctor should be in agreement on a decision involving the surgery.

Another time when surgery will be recommended is when you gradually lose the functionality of your nerves. Most of the time, patients experience acute failure of nerve functionality. Your nerves' functionality may come and go, but these complications can be cleared by medication. If you are unable to bend your knees or move your foot, then surgery is definitely recommended. However, you may not function as well as you used to before the surgery.

Risks of Lumbar Decompression Surgery

Like other surgeries, a lumbar decompression laminectomy has some risks and complications, which include:

Recurrent or continuing symptoms

Lumbar decompression is a very effective way of getting relief from pain and numb legs. However, these symptoms can still be experienced by every 1 of 3 people after the surgery. Some people may also develop symptoms years after the surgery.

The symptoms may come back due to a weak spine, another disk slipping, or another enlarged ligament that exerts pressure on the spine. Sometimes, during recovery, there might be scarring in the area around the nerves, making the symptoms to recur.

Your physical therapist and doctor will first try alternatives before recommending further surgery. In the case of further surgery, you may be exposed to more risks and complications. However, you should not worry you since laminectomy always has a high success rate. The benefits of undergoing the surgery again also outweigh the risks.

During recovery, there is no treatment for scarring. You may reduce the effects by exercising regularly.

Infection

Surgical wound infections are one of the most commonly known laminectomy complications. This type of complication can be successfully eliminated through antibiotics. Infections are known to affect at least 1 in every 25 laminectomy patients.

Blood clots

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can occur after a laminectomy. DVT is a condition wherein you develop a blood clot in your leg after the decompression. Deep vein thrombosis can also cause pulmonary embolism, which is a condition where one of the blood vessels is blocked by a blood clot. Deep vein thrombosis can also cause swelling in the leg in most cases.

This risk can be reduced by improving your blood flow through compression stockings and by making sure that you are active enough during the recovery period.

Dural tear

A dural tear is possible in all types of laminectomy surgeries. The dura covers the entire spine and the nerves of your spine. About 17 percent of the people who underwent a laminectomy experience a number of complications associated with a dural tear. The tearing should be identified and corrected during the operation. Otherwise, it will lead to a leaking of the cerebrospinal fluid. Your surgeon will stitch back your dura if there is a tear, as the surgeon will be expecting such complication. 

Leakage of the cerebrospinal fluid

Your nerve lining may be damaged accidentally during the lumbar decompression operation, which may also lead to a leaking of the cerebrospinal fluid. If your surgeon notices such damage during the procedure, he or she will patch it up and tries to repair it. If it is noticed after the surgery, you may require further surgery as the damage may cause you headaches and wound leakage.

Facial sores and loss of vision

You are positioned to rest on your chin and forehead during the surgery. During the lumbar decompression process, your surgeon will regularly monitor you to ensure that you are experiencing no difficulties. You may experience red sores on your face, which may take a few days to heal.

Nerve injury and paralysis

One in every 4 people who had a lumbar decompression operation develops new weakness in their legs as an effect of the operation. One or both legs may be numb. Paralysis is a very rare occurrence after a lumbar laminectomy. It is estimated to occur in less than 1 out of 300 lumbar decompression surgeries.

The following situations can cause paralysis and nerve injuries:

  • when you bleed inside the spinal column
  • when your spinal fluid leaks
  • when during the surgery, the blood vessels supplying the spinal cord are damaged
  • when during the surgery, your nerves are accidentally damaged

Death

It is very rare to hear cases of death during a lumbar decompression operation. However, just like other surgeries, a person may die due to a blood clot, severe blood loss, or anesthetic reaction.

The risk of death is also influenced by a person's health condition and age. It is vital to ensure that your doctor becomes aware of any conditions that you may have prior to your surgery.