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Lumbar Spinal

Spinal decompression

Spinal decompression is a type of surgery used to give your spine nerves more space and relieve their compression. “Decompression” usually means removing tissue that is compressing a spinal nerve.

It can be performed anywhere along your spine from your neck (cervical) to your lower back. Lumbar decompression surgery relieves lower back neural impingement.

By reducing pressure on the nerves in your spine, spinal decompression surgery aims to improve symptoms such as persistent pain and numbness in the legs.

More space can be created in your spine by a number of different types of spinal decompression surgery. Often, these procedures are performed together. They include:

Laminectomy – the complete removal of one of your vertebral bones, called the lamina, that is pressing on the affected nerve.
Laminotomy - the removal of part of your lamina.
Foraminotomy – the removal of bone spurs or tissue from your spine’s foramen, the nerve passageways, or space between your vertebrae through which your nerve roots exit the spinal column.
Laminaplasty – the cutting of your laminae on one side and then “swinging” the freed bone open to expand your spinal canal in the cervical area.
Discectomy/microdiscectomy – part of your damaged intervertebral disc is removed to relieve nerve pressure. Microdiscectomy uses minimally invasive surgery to remove the herniated disc.
Disc replacement – replacement of a prolapsed disc with an artificial one.
Spinal fusion - joining of two or more vertebrae together using a section of bone and sometimes instruments such as rods to stabilise and strengthen your spine.

Spinal decompression with Ramsay Health Care

Many of our Ramsay hospitals offer spinal decompression surgery. 

We understand the excruciating nature of chronic back pain and we endeavour to arrange rapid appointments with our highly experienced spinal surgeons. They will investigate and diagnose your back pain and perform any recommended back surgery in our modern, clean and, well-equipped hospitals, with the support of qualified and caring nursing, imaging and physiotherapy staff.

What is spinal decompression surgery used to treat?

Spinal decompression surgery is often used to treat:

Spinal stenosis – the narrowing of part of your spinal column that causes compression of the nerves inside.
Slipped or prolapsed disc and sciatica – a damaged spinal disc presses down and puts pressure on an underlying nerve. Sciatica is pain along your large sciatic nerve that can be severe and debilitating and, radiates down your leg from your lower back or buttock.
Spinal injuries – such as fractures or tissue swelling.
Metastatic spinal cord compression – when cancer in a part of your body, such as the lungs, spreads into your spine and puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
Ankylosing spondylitis – a type of arthritis that causes inflammation of your joints and ligaments along your spine and, over time your joints may fuse.
Spondylosis – spinal degeneration such as osteoarthritis of the spine.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of your spinal canal that puts pressure on your spinal nerves and sometimes your spinal cord, causing them to become swollen and inflamed and, can lead to chronic pain, numbness, and muscle weakness in your arms or legs.

Spinal stenosis may be caused by osteoarthritis, enlarged joints, thickened ligaments and, bony overgrowths.

What does spinal decompression surgery involve?

Spinal decompression surgery is usually carried out under general anaesthetic. It typically takes at least an hour, but it may take much longer for more complex cases.

Your spinal surgeon can access your spine via: a posterior approach (incision through your back), an anterior approach (from the front of your body, through your abdomen) or, a lateral approach (through your side).

They will then perform the appropriate procedure or combination of spine decompression procedures based on your diagnosis to achieve more room for your nerves and reduce their impingement.

What complication can happen after spinal decompression surgery?

Complications specific to spinal decompression surgery include:

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – development of a blood clot in one of your leg veins. In rare cases the clot breaks free and travels to your lungs where it can cause a serious problem called a pulmonary embolism.
Spinal nerve or cord damage – can cause persistent pain, numbness or in rare cases paralysis.
Vertebrae failing to fuse.
Hardware fracture – the instruments used to stabilise a fusion may break or move before complete fusion.  

Cost of spinal decompression surgery

If you decide to pay for your treatment, Ramsay offer an all-inclusive Total Care package, where a single one-off payment at a pre-agreed price, delivering direct access to all the treatment you need for complete reassurance. You can also spread the cost of your treatment with finance options available.

A spinal decompression may be covered by your medical insurance policy. We advise you to check directly with your insurance provider and get written confirmation before commencing treatment. 

How soon will I recover after spinal decompression surgery?

These back operations usually require a hospital stay from one to four days, depending on the complexity of the surgery and your mobility before the operation.

You will be encouraged to walk unassisted within a day after your procedure.

Recovery usually takes between four to six weeks. You should follow your surgeon’s advice regarding more strenuous activities.

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