Spinal decompression surgery is a type of procedure used to free trapped nerves in the lower back (lumbar) spine that might be causing discomfort or pain.
When might I need spinal decompression surgery?
If you have a condition called spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal, this surgery can help release nerves that are caught in this narrowing. The spinal canal houses the nerves that extend from the spinal cord. This narrowing can occur due to a combination of factors like spinal arthritis, bulging discs (disc herniation), spondylolisthesis (a vertebra slipping out of place), or spinal tumours.
Spinal decompression surgery can also be used to treat issues like spinal injuries, slipped discs, and sciatica.
Typically, this type of surgery is suggested only when other non-surgical treatments have not effectively relieved your symptoms. Many people who undergo this procedure experience significant pain relief. Those who had difficulty walking due to leg pain or weakness often find it easier to walk longer distances after the surgery.
Initially, your spinal consultant might recommend anti-inflammatory medications for pain relief. If you have leg pain caused by nerve pressure in your lower back (sciatica), your consultant might suggest a steroid injection in your spine.
What happens during lumbar spinal decompression surgery?
To confirm the diagnosis and plan your surgery, you may undergo an MRI scan.
The decompression surgery is typically performed under general anaesthesia. Your surgeon will make an incision in your lower back and remove enough bone and tissue to free the trapped nerves. Afterwards, they will close the incision with stitches and dress the wound.
To address the trapped nerves, your spinal consultant might perform one or more of these procedures:
- Spinal fusion: Joining two or more vertebrae with a piece of bone to stabilise the spine.
- Laminectomy: Removing a portion of bone from a vertebra to create space.
- Discectomy: Removing a damaged portion of a spinal disc to relieve nerve pressure.
After your spinal decompression surgery
Right after the surgery, you'll be taken to a recovery area where medical staff will monitor your vital signs. If you experience any pain, make sure to inform the recovery room staff. Once stable, a nurse will take you to your room.
After your surgery the nursing team will continue to monitor your recovery. After the effects of the anaesthesia wear off, you can have something to eat and drink. If you're in pain, let them know.
Some patients might have trouble urinating after the surgery. If you're uncomfortable, inform a member of the healthcare team.
You'll be encouraged to start moving around as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of the surgery. A physiotherapist will guide you on exercises to regain mobility. Avoid bending, twisting, or lifting heavy objects for about six weeks following the surgery.
The length of your hospital stay depends on the extent of the decompression. Most patients spend 1-4 nights in the hospital. Your consultant and nursing team will ensure your safety before you go home.
You'll likely be able to walk on your own the day after surgery, but strenuous activities should be avoided for about six weeks.
Driving and returning to work will be allowed only after your follow-up appointment with your consultant. Arrange for someone to take you home on the day of discharge.
Stitches or staples will be removed 10-14 days after the surgery.
You might feel tired and sore in the initial weeks. Resting is crucial for healing. Walking is encouraged during recovery, starting with short distances and gradually increasing. Avoid sitting for long periods to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT).Risks and complications of spinal decompression surgery
Most people recover well and resume normal activities after spinal decompression surgery.
However, as with any surgery, there can be complications:
Infection at the incision site
Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis)
Damage to the spinal cord or nerves
Specific complications of spinal decompression can include:
Bleeding in the spinal column
Continued pain or numbness
Loss of bladder or bowel control
Infection in the spine
Leaking of spinal fluid
You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.
We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.
Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.
Type of anaesthetic General
Covered by health insurance? Yes
Can I pay privately? Yes
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