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Recovery from a laminectomy may take up to 12 weeks, and the patient should follow a physician's healing plan to prevent the incision from opening or further straining the back. A laminectomy procedure usually requires a three day hospital stay, where the person will be given pain medications to reduce the swelling and inflammation, and will usually be required to begin walking 24 hours after the surgery. At the hospital, a medical professional will change the bandages over the incision and drain fluid from the site if necessary. Once the person is able to hold down solid foods, dress, and change the bandages, he or she will be allowed to return home.
A laminectomy is performed to relieve spinal chord pressure caused by spinal stenosis. This condition causes degeneration of the spinal chord, which begins to narrow and causes pinched nerves, pain, and numbness in various parts of the body. A lumbar laminectomy, also known as open decompression, is performed on the lower back. In a cervical laminectomy, the spine is accessed from the side of the neck, and the recovery time is usually shorter for this procedure.
During a laminectomy, an incision will be made over the vertebrae where the compression of the nerves is occurring. The muscles covering the vertebrae are moved to the side, and then the lamina bone and ligaments are removed in order to expose the nerve roots of the vertebrae. The physician then removes tissue, bone spurs or fragments to relieve the compression of the nerves. The surgeon can also widen the openings that allow the nerves to travel through the vertebrae.
Once the patient has been discharged, a physician may recommend physical therapy sessions for a person to build his or her muscle strength, improve range of motion in the neck, and reduce muscle spasms during the recovery from a laminectomy. Lifting and bending should be avoided for three weeks after the procedure, and driving is prohibited for the first few weeks and until the person is able to discontinue using strong pain medications. During the recovery from a laminectomy, the patient should try to walk every day to gain strength and flexibility, but standing or sitting for long periods of time can increase pain and cause muscle spasms. The proper amount of rest aids the body in its natural healing process, and maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet is essential during this stressful time. Recovery from a laminectomy can be a slower process for those who are in poor health, older, or if there were complications during the procedure.