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Thoracic Laminectomy Surgery

What does “Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression” mean?

Here is the meaning of each word:

  1. Thoracic: area of the spine located in the mid-back.
  2. Laminectomy: removal of the lamina bone on the back of the spine.
  3. Decompression: to remove a compression of a nerve or the spinal cord.

Altogether, “Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression” means removing the lamina bone from the mid-back in order to remove compression of a spinal nerve or the spinal cord.

What is a Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression?

A Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression is a surgery in the mid-back (thoracic spine) which is done to remove the pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.

The lamina bone on the back of the spine is removed to relieve the compression.

Why is a Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression done?

This surgery is done to relieve the compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves in the mid-back (thoracic spine) from trauma, tumors, infection or degeneration of the spine.

Degeneration of the spine is often due to a disc herniation or bone spurs on the facet joints (small joints in the back of the spine). This causes a narrowing of the canal where the spinal cord and spinal nerves are located (spinal stenosis)

How is a Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression done?

Here are some of the steps of how this surgery is performed:

  1. An intravenous catheter (IV) is placed in the patient and antibiotics are given.
  2. This surgery is done in an Operating Room.
  3. The patient is brought to the Operating Room and initially placed on the back (supine).
  4. A General Anesthetic is given and the patient is carefully turned on the stomach (prone).
  5. The mid-back is cleaned with a sterile surgical solution. Sterile sheets (drapes) are placed around the surgical area.
  6. A cut (incision) is made over the middle of the spine.
  7. An X-Ray machine is used to find the correct disc level in the spine.
  8. Some surgeons use a monitoring device (neuromonitoring) to evaluate the function of the spinal cord during this surgery.
  9. The tissue and muscles are moved until the spinous process and lamina bones are seen.
  10. The spinous process and lamina are removed with specialized instruments.
  11. The spinal cord and spinal nerves are now seen. They are freed up from any compression.
  12. Depending on the stability of the spine, sometimes a bone fusion of the vertebrae above and below the removed bone is now done. This would involve placing titanium screws into the vertebrae above and below, and then connecting them together with titanium rods. Bone and other material will then be placed next to the screws and rods.
  13. The tissue and skin of the spine are now closed with stitches (sutures) or surgical metal staples.
  14. The patient is turned on the back (supine) and awoken from General Anesthesia.

How long does it take to complete a Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression?

This surgery can take about 1.5-4 hours or more to complete.

What is the recovery from a Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression like?

Here are some steps for the recovery from this surgery:

  1. This patient is admitted to the hospital at least overnight.
  2. A brace of the mid-back and chest area is sometimes used.
  3. After discharge, the patient is given restrictions on activities such as bending and lifting.
  4. The incisions will on average take 2-4 weeks to heal.
  5. The surgeon will usually reevaluate the patient within several weeks.

What benefit can patients gain from a Thoracic Laminectomy Decompression?

Often the benefit from this surgery can be felt within weeks, but it may take several months for the spinal nerve or spinal cord to recover from the compression.