Decompression and Fusion

A lumbar laminectomy is typically performed to alleviate pain caused by neural impingement that can result from lumbar spinal stenosis. The laminectomy is designed to remove a small portion of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material from under the nerve root to give the nerve root more space and a better healing environment.

Spinal stenosis is a condition that primarily afflicts elderly patients, and is caused by degenerative changes that result in enlargement of the facet joints. The enlarged joints then place pressure on the nerves, and this pressure may be effectively relieved with a lumbar laminectomy.

The lumbar laminectomy (open decompression) differs from a microdiscectomy in that the incision is longer and there is more muscle stripping.

  • First, the back is approached through a two-inch to five-inch long incision in the midline of the back and the left and right back muscles (erector spinae) are dissected off the lamina on both sides and at multiple levels (see Figure 2).

  • After the spine is approached, the lamina is removed (laminectomy) which allows visualization of the nerve roots.

  • The facet joints, which are directly over the nerve roots, may then be undercut (trimmed) to give the nerve roots more room.


Post-operatively, patients are in the hospital for one to three days, and the individual patient's mobilization (return to normal activity) is largely dependent on his/her pre-operative condition and age. Directly following a laminectomy for lumbar stenosis, patients are encouraged to walk. However, it is recommended that patients avoid excessive bending, lifting or twisting for six weeks after stenosis surgery in order to avoid pulling on the suture line before it heals.

View a Video About Decompression and Fusion

Please click on "Spine," "Surgical Procedures," then "Laminectomy" in the video player below.

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