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What is a laminotomy?

Laminotomy

Laminotomy is the surgical incision and removal of a small part of a bony area of the spine called the lamina. The lamina is the back part of each vertebra and forms the back wall of your spinal canal. Your spinal cord runs through your spinal canal in the center of your vertebrae. Certain conditions of the spine can compress the spinal cord and cause pain. A laminotomy can relieve pressure in your spinal canal and on spinal nerves. 

The word laminotomy is often used interchangeably with laminectomy. However, in a laminotomy only a small part of the lamina is removed, while in a laminectomy most of the lamina is removed. 

Laminotomy is a common but major surgery with serious risks and potential complications. You may have less invasive treatment options. Consider getting a second opinion about all your treatment choices before having a laminotomy. 

Types of laminotomy

When laminotomy involves one vertebra, it is called single level. When it involves more than one vertebra it is called multilevel.

The types of laminotomy procedures include:

  • Cervical laminotomy is the removal of part of the lamina in the neck area (cervical spine).
  • Lumbar laminotomy is the removal of part of the lamina in the lower back (lumbar spine).
  • Sacral laminotomy is the removal of part of the lamina in the back between your pelvic, or hipbones (sacral spine).
  • Thoracic laminotomy is the removal of part of the lamina in the middle part of the back (thoracic spine).

Other procedures that may be performed

Your doctor may perform other procedures in addition to laminotomy. These include:

  • Discectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of a spinal disc. A discectomy treats degenerated, herniated or ruptured spinal discs.
  • Foraminotomy is the widening of the opening where the nerve roots leave the spinal canal. Your doctor may use this procedure when the opening (foramina) is narrowed causing pressure on the spinal nerves.
  • Spinal fusion is the permanent joining together of two vertebrae. Spinal fusions use a bone graft to fuse or join two vertebrae. Sometimes, your doctor will also use screws, rods or plates to hold your vertebrae in place. This procedure permanently stops movement between the two vertebrae.
Medical Reviewers: Daphne E. Hemmings, MD, MPH Last Review Date: Jul 12, 2013

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Medical References

Eidelson SG, Fessler RG, Garfin SR, et al. Save Your Aching Back and Neck: A Patient’s Guide. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: SYA Press and Research Inc.; 2002:76-80. http://www.amazon.com/Save-Your-Aching-Patients-Guide/dp/0966925211. Accessed June 14, 2013.
Laminotomy. Laser Spine Institute. http://www.laserspineinstitute.com/spinal_orthopedic_procedures/laminotomy/. Accessed June 14, 2013.
Pile, JC. Evaluating postoperative fever: A focused approach. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2006;73 (Suppl 1):S62. http://ccjm.org/content/73/Suppl_1/S62.full.pdf. Accessed June 14, 2013.
Spinal Decompression: Laminectomy and Laminotomy. Mayfield Clinic and Spine Institute. http://www.mayfieldclinic.com/pdf/pe-decompression.pdf. Accessed June 14, 2013.

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