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Spinal/Lumbar Decompression Surgery

Spinal/Lumbar Decompression Surgery

Spinal decompression surgery, also known as decompressive laminectomy, helps relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves caused by conditions, such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease.

Medically reviewed by Dr Chua Soo Yong ,
Consultant Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon
MBBS (S’pore), MRCS (Edinburgh), MMed (Ortho),FRCS (Ortho), FAMS (Ortho)

What is Spinal Decompression Surgery?

Spinal decompression surgery is a procedure performed to reduce the tension in the spinal cord and the nerves while maintaining the spine’s function and strength. This type of spine surgery involves the removal of a portion of the vertebra or bone to create more space for the spinal canal.

What Does Spinal Decompression Surgery Treat?

Spinal decompression surgery is commonly performed to treat conditions that cause spinal nerve compression, such as:

  • Spinal Stenosis - This refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal that leads to pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Slipped or Herniated Disc - This occurs when the soft cushioning between the spinal bones bulges out of place or ruptures, which exerts pressure on the nearby nerves in the spinal cord.
  • Sciatica - This pain radiates along the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back down to the legs due to herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
  • Spinal Injuries - Injuries to the spine, such as fractures and dislocations, can affect the spine and place significant pressure on the spinal cord.

Who is Suitable for Spinal Decompression Surgery?

One may require spinal decompression surgery for the following reasons:

  • Inadequate relief from conservative treatments
  • Significant and debilitating pain
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Bladder or bowel dysfunction
  • An underlying disease that causes spinal cord or nerve compression

What are the Types of Spinal Decompression Surgery?

  • Laminectomy - This procedure involves the removal of the vertebral bone called the lamina to create more space within the spinal canal and alleviate pressure on the affected nerves.
  • Laminotomy - Unlike a laminectomy, this procedure only removes a small portion of the lamina to decompress one side of the spinal canal while leaving most of the vertebrae intact.
  • Microsurgical Laminoplasty - Primarily used for cervical (neck) spinal stenosis, this procedure involves creating a hinge on one side of the lamina to enlarge the spinal canal.
  • Microdiscectomy - This removes a portion of the herniated disc that is impinging on the spinal nerves. It is often performed on patients with sciatica or a herniated disc in the lumbar (lower back) spine.

How to Prepare for Spinal Decompression Surgery

Before spinal decompression surgery, the surgeon will provide detailed preoperative instructions. These include fasting for six to eight hours, certain existing medications to be temporarily stopped, and any necessary lifestyle adjustments, such as quitting smoking for four to six weeks before the procedure. The doctor will also review the patient’s medical history and conduct a thorough examination to ensure the patient is fit for surgery.

How is Spinal Decompression Surgery Performed?

During spinal decompression surgery, the patient will be positioned face down on the operative table to allow the surgeon better access to the affected area of the spine. Typically, the procedure is performed under general anaesthesia, which makes the patient asleep throughout the procedure.

The surgeon will then make an incision in the centre of the back that runs vertically along the spine. The size of the incision depends on the number of vertebrae and/or discs that require treatment. The muscles in the back will be separated from the spinal column to expose the posterior region of the spine. The affected tissues or portion of the bone or disc will be removed gradually using specialised instruments, thereby alleviating the pressure off the spinal cord or nerves.

In cases where fusion is necessary – when there is spinal instability or laminectomies of multiple vertebrae – a bone graft may be used to join two vertebrae together to improve the spine’s stability.

The surgeon will stitch the muscles back together and close the incision with sutures. The procedure usually takes at least one hour, but may be longer depending on its complexity.

How Long is the Recovery Time?

The recovery period may vary based on the complexity of the surgery and the patient’s mobility level and overall health. Generally, patients can expect a hospital stay of one to four days to ensure proper monitoring and discharge planning. During this time, the surgeon will provide specific guidelines on activity restrictions, wound care, and follow-up appointments.

Most patients can walk within a few hours after spinal decompression surgery with the help of a physiotherapist, who will offer guidance on specific exercises and proper techniques to speed up recovery.

In most cases, patients can return to work within two to four weeks following surgery. However, individuals with jobs involving prolonged periods of driving or heavy lifting may require additional time off.

Success Rate of Spinal Decompression Surgery

The success rate for spinal decompression surgery typically ranges around 60% to 70%. Many patients report a decrease in pain, improved physical condition, and increased overall functionality following the procedure.

The success rate may differ based on the extent of nerve compression, the surgeon’s expertise, the patient's overall health, and adherence to postoperative care and rehabilitation.

Dr Chua Soo Yong
Consultant Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon
MBBS (S’pore), MRCS (Edinburgh), MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho), FAMS (Ortho)

Dr Chua Soo Yong is an orthopaedic and spine surgeon specialising in the treatment of spinal conditions. He is experienced in performing complex spinal surgery and has been actively involved in the research of spinal cord injuries and regeneration. Besides his private practice, Dr Chua has also published numerous articles in reputable spine journals. Dr Chua is committed to providing optimal and personalised care to his patients to help them move better and more comfortably again.

Make an appointment with our specialist, Dr Chua Soo Yong, at 6262 0555 today.
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3 Mount Elizabeth Suite #06-09,
Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Singapore 228510

Tel : 6262 0555
Fax : 6684 0985
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Sat : 9.00am - 1.30pm
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Atlas Spine & Orthopaedic Surgery Centre provides subspecialty back and spine treatments tailored to each patient’s needs. For a detailed consultation, make an appointment with us at 6262 0555 today.