Lumbar Decompression

Lumbar decompression is routinely performed and very successful surgery at The UK Spine Centre.

The operation involves freeing up trapped nerve roots in the lower back. This is caused by narrowing of the spinal canal (called stenosis) which becomes more common as our spines age.

Spinal stenosis can cause back pain and/or symptoms down one or both legs (sciatica). Typically this is made worse by standing or walking and relieved by sitting or bending forwards.

Procedure

We are well equipped at The UK Spine Centre with powerful lights and strong magnification to enable our specialists to perform decompression through a keyhole approach. This has the advantage of minimising damage to the tissues, reduces pain, and speeds recovery.

We make a small incision on the lower back and gently separate the muscles to reach the spine.

A small ‘window’ is made through the bone and ligament to identify the trapped nerves. Redundant tissue such as bony spurs, in-folded ligament, bulging discs are ‘nibbled’ away freeing up the compressed nerves.

‘Laminectomy’ is a slightly old fashioned term which referred to part of the bone, traditionally removed to achieve a successful decompression.

Sometimes it is helpful to place a small cushion or implant behind the spine to mechanically support the decompression, particularly if there is evidence of excessive movement in the joints. This may help reduce back pain and problems developing months or years later. Your specialist will always discuss this with you before surgery if they feel this would be helpful.

If there is a deformity in your spine or abnormal movement it may be prudent to combine the decompression with a fusion. This decision would be carefully considered and discussed with you before your operation.

Success

Decompression is very much the ‘bread and butter’ of spinal surgery however choosing how and when to operate is really important.

The good news – in our experience of surgery in 1000s of cases – is that you have at least an 80% chance of being completely better.

There is a 10-15% that you are improved but are still not quite as good as you would like to be.

Risks

About 5% of patients will have ongoing or worse symptoms despite a technically successful operation to free up the nerves. This may be because the nerves have been compressed for a long time.

There is a 1% chance of complications including nerve injury, spinal fluid leak, infection, bleeding, blood clots, medical complications etc. Most problems are uncommon and can be solved. We will always look after you throughout.

Thankfully a severe neurological injury with surgery is exceedingly rare.

Recovery

Our minimally invasive approach will enable you to be up and about within a few hours of surgery and home on the same day.

Watch our videos of two patients who were back on their feet within just a few hours of a Lumbar Decompression performed as day case surgery at the UK Spine Centre.

It is very important to move after surgery and you will quickly build up your walking and stamina each day.

Your back will feel sore for a few weeks but simple painkillers usually suffice.

We will check and redress the wound as necessary in the first few weeks. We usually use a dissolvable stitch.

You can return to non physical work and driving from 2 weeks and more physical work from 6 weeks, or as you feel ready.

We will see you back in the clinic 6 weeks after your decompression and as required thereafter.

In our experience, and depending on the individual, you will be back to most sports and activities within a few months.

Our team will support you before and after the operation and your specialist remains available to you at any time.

Further Reading

Please see our Patient Stories which describe real patients, their problems, diagnosis and successful treatment under our care at The UK Spine Centre.

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