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Spinal Decompression Surgery

An older person on a bicycle stretching out the arms free of pain.

What is spinal decompression surgery?

Spinal decompression surgery is performed to relieve lower back pain or other symptoms caused by compression of the spinal cord itself or of spinal nerves at the point where they exit the spine (radiculopathy).

What are the symptoms of spinal nerve compression?

Symptoms of spinal compression include:

  • Pain – especially in the lower back (lumbar spine) – but also possibly in the neck (cervical spine) or upper back (thoracic spine).
  • Neuropathies, such as sensations of numbness, tingling or "pins and needles."
  • Feeling of weakness or instability in the back.

In certain nerve compression conditions, such as spinal stenosis, you may also experience:

  • Neuropathies in the arms, hands, legs or feet.
  • Balance problems.
  • Incontinence issues (bowel dysfunction, unexpected need to urinate, etc.).

What kinds of spinal decompression surgeries are there?

Types of spinal decompression surgeries performed at HSS include laminectomy, laminotomy, laminoplasty, discectomy and microdiscectomy, among others.

Laminectomy is the removal in one or more vertebrae of the lamina (bony roof over the spinal canal). This decompresses both sides (left and right) of the canal.

Laminotomy is removal of a small portion of the lamina to decompress one side (left or right) of the canal. This leaves most of the lamina intact.

Find an HSS spine surgeon by decompression procedure type

Microsurgical laminoplasty is a minimally invasive surgical decompression technique that uses small incisions viewed through an operating microscope. (Find a laminoplasty spine specialist.)

Microdiscectomy (also known as spinal microdecompression surgery): This minimally invasive spine procedure is commonly performed on patients who have sciatica and/or a herniated disc in the lumbar section of the spine (lower back). Using muscle-sparing incisions, this removes portions of a herniated disc that is putting pressure on the spinal nerve and causing pain.

Minimally invasive lumbar discectomy (also known as endoscopic percutaneous disc removal) is similar to microdiscectomy, and uses a scope to make very small incisons in the skin through which a portion of the herniated disc that is compressing spinal nerves is removed.

Below, find articles and animation videos on different types of spine compression surgery.

Spinal Decompression Surgery Success Stories

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