Cervical Laminaplasty

What is cervical laminaplasty?

Cervical laminaplasty or laminoplasty is a surgery performed on the back of the neck.  It is designed to remove pressure from the spinal cord.  This pressure is most often caused by degenerative disc disease or bone spurs.  Patients who suffer spinal stenosis (the medical term for a spinal cord under pressure) experience tingling and numbness in their arms, difficulty walking, or clumsiness of the arms and legs. 

What happens during cervical laminaplasty surgery?

The surgery is performed from the back of the body.  During the surgery, the patient lays face down on the operating table under general anesthesia.  The surgeon makes an incision along the spine to expose the spinal column

After the surgeon has removed the muscles from the vertebrae that are applying pressure to the spinal cord, the surgeon cuts the vertebrae bone on either side of the spinal cord.  These cuts allow the surgeon to create a hinge with the vertebrae and decrease the amount of pressure that the bone puts on the spinal cord.  Often, more than one vertebrae will have to be “hinged” to provide complete relief. 

What happens after cervical laminaplasty surgery?

After the surgery, the patient spends two to three days in the hospital.  During this recovery period, the surgeon ensures that the patient’s neck is stabilized.  The patient is also fit for a neck collar or brace, which the patient will wear for six weeks after the surgery to protect and stabilize the neck. 

After being discharged from the hospital, the patient will be expected to perform daily exercises that a physical therapist or surgeon assigns.  Patients will not, however, be able to do any exercises that are high impact like running, mountain biking, or equestrian events during the six-month healing period.  The physical therapist and surgeon will tell the patient when they may return to these activities. 

As the patient heals from the surgery, the spinal nerves will also heal because they are no longer under pressure.  Generally, the spinal nerves will regain all activity during the months after the surgery, and patients will return to the same health status as before the surgery. 

What are the risks involved?

Cervical laminaplasty is often quite successful in relieving the pain, tingling, and clumsiness patients experience because of the stenosis, but there are some risks and common pain involved with the surgery.

Nearly all patients will experience severe pain in the back of the neck in the weeks after the surgery.  This pain will be managed by prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers prescribed by the doctor.  This pain occurs because of the unavoidable muscle damage that occurs during the surgery.  In order to hinge the vertebrae, the surgeon must strip the major muscles from the bone, which causes the pain during the healing process.   

Some patients also experience nerve stunning or palsy after the surgery.  This stunning occurs when the spinal nerves are nicked or bumped during the surgery.  The palsy usually causes weakness in the shoulders and arms.  Generally, the nerves will heal themselves without any further intervention by a surgeon or physical therapist. 

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