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Laminectomy or Fusion, What’s Better?

Laminectomy or fusion, which one is better?  Let’s investigate who is a candidate for laminectomy surgery, spinal fusion surgery, and what happens during each process.

What is Laminectomy?

Laminectomy is a surgical procedure that removes part of or all of a lamina from a portion of your spine to relieve pressure on your nerves. The pressure on your nerves is from bone overgrowths, or bone spurs, that result from osteoarthritis and is generally a natural effect of aging. Not everyone will experience a bone spur in their spine, however, so it’s important to figure out what’s the true cause of back or leg pain.

Who is a Candidate for Laminectomy?

Patients with back and leg pain may be a candidate for surgical treatment. The first step would be to investigate what is causing the back pain or leg pain to see if laminectomy can help. Usually an MRI will be ordered by your neurologist and subsequently reviewed with you to see what’s causing your pain. If the nerves are being compressed by a lamina and it’s causing you severe pain and discomfort then a laminectomy will be proposed.

What is Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion is the fusing of two or more spinal vertebra using bone grafts, screws, and metal plates. This procedure can be done along with a laminectomy or other procedures to stabilize the spine. Because the vertebra become fused this will limit your range of motion.

So what’s better, Laminectomy or Spinal Fusion?

During a laminectomy procedure spinal bone is removed from the back to release the pressure on the nerve that is causing the leg pain, numbness and tingling. This is relatively a simple procedure as compared to the fusion in which more bone is removed and hardware (screws and rods) are required. The fusion procedure may help the back pain but there may be long term consequences associated with the fusion and often the pain comes back even if initially successful. So if the back pain is tolerable, laminectomy without fusion is the better option.

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