Cervical Laminectomy Overview

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Back problems and pain are a major reason for many lost work days each year and can also prevent people from being able to enjoy time with their families. As people age, their discs can begin to degenerate and may herniate or begin to bulge. The result of this is that the ligaments buckle into the spinal cord or nerve roots and cause pinching of the nerves along the spinal cord and down the arm. This is known as cervical stenosis, and it can cause loss of balance, loss of coordination, and problems maintaining bowel and bladder continence.

Treating Cervical Stenosis

If most of the nerve compression is in the back, cervical stenosis can be treated with a procedure called a posterior cervical laminectomy. During this procedure, a doctor removes the lamina and spinous process in order to give the spinal cord more room. While this surgical procedure can help patients who have stenosis, severe stenosis may lead to loss of function that cannot be recovered. This is because the spinal cord is very sensitive to injury and the pinching of the nerves may have done too much damage to be corrected by the time surgery is performed.

Posterior Laminectomy Procedure

During the surgical procedure, a surgeon makes an incision down the center of the back of the neck. The muscles are shifted to the side and the surgeon ensures that the nerves and arteries in the neck are protected from damage. Once the spine is reached, the surgeon may take an x-ray to ensure that the correct lamina is being removed. If the doctor finds bone spurs on the back of the vertebra, they are removed.

Some doctors may choose not to completely remove the lamina because of the problems it can cause. Instead, they cut one side of the lamina and fold it back to make the spinal canal larger. This gives the spinal cord more room without completely removing the entire lamina. This cut portion of the lamina heals with time and helps to prevent the spine from tilting forward.


Spinal surgery can lead to several serious complications. Some of the complications that can result from cervical laminectomy include nerve damage and damage to the spinal cord. Some of the issues that could result from spinal surgery may require additional surgery and result in pain and loss of function.