Laminectomy

This is a common spinal surgery procedure. The lamina is a flat section of the vertebra at the back part of the spinal column. The spinal column is made up of vertebrae stacked one on top of the other. Each vertebra has a central cavity, and when they are stacked on top of each other this forms a canal that houses the spinal cord and nerves. A laminectomy involves removing this flat bone as well as the spinous process between them to expose the spinal cord or the membrane containing the spinal nerves, depending on the level at which the surgery is performed. This bone can be safely removed because the stability of the spine is related to the facet joints, as well as the intervertebral disc and associated ligaments. This bone is drilled away with a high-speed burr at the time of surgery to expose the spinal cord or nerves. There is no long-term jeopardy with this, as the spinal cord or nerves are deep in the back and protected by thick muscles. A laminectomy is done to remove bone that is overgrown and compressing nerves or spinal cord. It is also the operation that is done to provide access for the spinal surgeon to remove any other structures that are causing compression of these neural structures. Common examples of structures that can be causing nerve compression include thickened ligaments or large central disc protrusions. Less common reasons for performing a laminectomy include providing access to remove a tumour of spinal vascular malformation.