Laminoplasty is a surgery to remove pressure on the spinal cord in the neck caused by spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal.

Laminoplasty is recommended for patients who have severe spinal cord compression causing:

  • Pain in the arms
  • Numbness
  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty using hands

Significant, long-term damage to the nerves from spinal compression may be permanent, so it is important to see a physician immediately if symptoms develop.

What to expect

The surgeon performs a laminoplasty through an incision in the back (posterior), front (anterior) or both sides of the neck. Your surgeon will determine which approach is best for you.

During a laminoplasty, the bone lying over the spinal cord (the lamina) is cut on both sides, creating a hinge on one side and a small opening on the other. Manipulating this bone takes pressure off the spinal cord and creates more space for the spinal cord. Types of laminoplasty include:

  • Open door laminoplasty: The surgeon uses a spacer made out of bone, metal or plastic, which is inserted to keep the spinal canal open. This is known as an “open door” laminoplasty because the position of the bone resembles a door being held open by a doorstop.
  • French door laminoplasty: The surgeon creates hinges on both sides of the lamina with an opening in the center. This allows the lamina to be opened by elevating both sides, resembling a French-style patio door.

After surgery

Patients usually stay in the hospital for two to three days after the surgery. You'll wear a neck collar for a few weeks after surgery, until your physician advises you to stop wearing it. He or she may also prescribe physical therapy to strengthen your neck muscles after surgery.

Laminoplasty has been used for over 35 years, and has a low rate of complications. The most common complaint is post-operative stiffness and neck pain.

Sometimes nerves can be “stunned” after this surgery, as they return to their normal location after the compression has been relieved. This can cause a nerve palsy, which can cause pronounced weakness and shoulder pain. This is nearly always temporary and goes away without treatment. As the spinal cord heals itself, nerve function continues to improve over 6 to 18 months.

Most patients report a pronounced recovery of nerve function within months of the laminoplasty.

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