You say laminectomy. I say laminotomy. What’s the difference?

stefan-pradaYour physician has just told you that back surgery is probably in your future. Now you’re feeling completely overwhelmed. You may ask yourself: what is the difference between traditional open-back surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery? That’s probably just the first on your list of 100 questions.

It is important to ask your surgeon what type of surgery he will perform. Typically, when your surgeon suggests back surgery, he is probably referring to traditional, open-back surgery. This type of procedure requires a large incision along the back that cuts through muscles, tissues and other ligaments. An open-back surgery requires a several-day hospital stay and months of recovery.

Conversely, minimally invasive spine surgery – like that performed at Laser Spine Institute – requires a small, 1-inch incision and uses a muscle-sparing technique. The surgery is performed in an outpatient surgical center that requires no overnight stay. Patients are typically walking around within a couple of hours of surgery. Seventy-five percent of Laser Spine Institute patients return to their daily activities within two weeks.

Now that you know the difference between open-back surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery, it’s time to talk about your procedure.

Your diagnosis will determine what type of procedure you will have. Some procedures sound similar, but have very different meanings – especially if one is performed traditionally and the other is minimally invasive. A good example of two different procedures is the laminectomy versus a laminotomy.

A laminectomy is typically performed in a traditional manner – with a large incision. During a laminectomy, the surgeon will cut through the muscles to reach the targeted area of the spine. The surgeon will remove the lamina, the bony arch of the vertebrae, to decompress the spinal cord during a laminectomy. Although the laminectomy offers pain relief, it should be noted that removing part of the spine’s lamina may cause spinal instability in future years.

A laminotomy – performed by Laser Spine Institute surgeons – requires a small, 1-inch incision. The surgeon uses an endoscope and series of dilating tubes to gently spread the muscles, rather than cutting through the tissues. The surgeon uses the endoscope to access the affected level. A small camera and surgical tools will be placed into the endoscope. Next, the surgeon will drill a small hole in the lamina, leaving the bone intact, to decompress the spinal cord. He will also remove any bone spurs that are impinging the nerves. Once the spinal cord has been decompressed, the surgeon will remove the endoscope and surgical tools and close the incision.

Now that you have a better understanding about spine surgery, go into your next meeting with your surgeon and ask as many questions as you can think of – write them down. We also recommend getting a second opinion. Never be afraid to ask a question and take control of your own health.

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