Thoracic Laminectomy in New Jersey
here are multiple causes of thoracic back pain, such as a pinched nerve, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. Surgery is one of the most effective treatments for conditions like these, and thoracic laminectomy has proven an ideal option for patients who have not experienced relief from non-surgical solutions. At Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO), neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons work alongside interventional pain management physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists to deliver comprehensive and personalized treatments for patients in northern New Jersey. Learn about thoracic laminectomy and its benefits for treating back pain.
What Is Thoracic Laminectomy?
Laminectomy is a type of spine surgery in which the surgeon removes a portion of the lamina (bony arches on the back of the spine) to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord or nearby nerves. There are three levels of the spine at which a laminectomy may need to be performed — cervical, thoracic, or lumbar. A laminectomy can be done at only one vertebrate level or more depending on the extent of the structural problem. A thoracic laminectomy only pertains to a laminectomy performed at the same level of the spine as the thorax.
Preparing for Thoracic Laminectomy
A patient with back pain will first have a consultation with a spine specialist to determine the cause of the pain and then treatment options. At CNSO, the spine specialists follow the medical guidelines and apply a conservative approach to treatment first. The majority of patients experience symptom relief and resolution of their discomfort from non-surgical procedures. This initial consultation typically involves history taking and a physical examination. If the symptoms are too severe or physical therapy does not resolve the patient’s symptoms, then diagnostic imaging to pinpoint the main cause of back pain would be in order. Common tests include MRIs and CT scans. Epidural steroids or transforaminal steroid injections may be recommended next. Facet joint injections (MBB) may be very beneficial if the patient has axial back pain.
If the patient has not shown improvement with conservative treatments, including pain management and the CNSO spine specialist, either a neurosurgeon or orthopedic spine surgeon, believes a thoracic laminectomy is the most viable option, they will discuss every detail of their rationale, the procedure, and the recovery with the patient. The discussion will always include a spine surgeon who can help the patient understand the risks and benefits of undergoing the procedure based on the severity of their symptoms and current health.
Conditions Requiring Thoracic Laminectomy
Patients with the following conditions affecting the mid-back area may need thoracic laminectomy to overcome back pain:
Thoracic Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when part of the spinal canal narrows, causing a range of symptoms such as radiating paresthesia. With increasing severity, spinal stenosis puts more pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Thoracic Disc Herniation
Disc herniation happens when joint damage in the spine causes fragments of a disc’s soft interior to protrude out, impacting nearby nerves. Herniated discs lead to back pain and pinched nerves.
Degenerative Disc Disease (Spondylolisthesis)
Spondylolisthesis is the result of bones in the spine not properly aligning and instead sliding either backward or forward. This condition can cause intense back pain.
The Thoracic Laminectomy Procedure
Before performing a thoracic laminectomy, the patient would have an anesthesiologist present to place the patient under general anesthesia. After the patient is asleep and well anesthetized, the neurosurgeon or orthopedic spine surgeon will make a small incision to remove the diseased lamina and address any malformation of discs or other spinal column anatomy. Once complete, the incision will be closed for minimal scaring, and a bandage will be applied.
In some cases, spine surgeons must perform fusion surgery if there is severe disease on one or more levels of the spine requiring a thoracic laminectomy. The purpose of the fusion is to stabilize the spine allowing the patient optimal movement and functionality after the surgery. A fusion involves using bone grafts and biosynthetic hardware to secure two or more vertebrae.
Minimally Invasive Thoracic Laminectomy
Advancements in medicine are made continually, and patients may have heard of minimally invasive thoracic laminectomy as an alternative to the traditional, open procedure. The minimally invasive approach enables neurosurgeons or orthopedic spine surgeons to complete surgery with a minimal incision. This allows the patients to have a quicker recovery time and potentially less pain.
Post-Operative Care and Recovery
Following thoracic laminectomy, patients are transported to a post-op area, where the surgical team monitors them during their postoperative recovery. The amount of time a patient must stay in the hospital will depend on the extent of the surgery and their overall health. In some cases, patients may be able to go home on the day of surgery. For more extensive surgeries, the recovery may benefit from one day or more.
Patients may experience some discomfort and swelling at the incision site, and spine surgeons may prescribe pain medication to help manage these symptoms. Physical therapy and rehabilitation enable patients to regain function and rebuild muscle strength.
Long-term Outlook and Prognosis
Laminectomy has proven highly effective for treating back pain related to lamina pinching the spinal cord or a nerve root causing back pain. Immediately following surgery, patients can expect to need assistance with basic tasks, such as getting out of bed, walking, and dressing. The physical demands of a patient’s job will determine how long it will be before they can return to work, but a desk job should be a quick return. Patients may need more time to ease back into jobs requiring high-impact tasks such as heavy lifting. For patients who undergo spinal fusion, recovery will be longer.
Thoracic Laminectomy versus Other Thoracic Spinal Surgeries
Thoracic laminectomy is one of several procedures spine surgeons recommend to treat thoracic back pain. Others include:
Discectomy also helps relieve back pain, but the procedure is designed to remove all or part of a herniated or slipped disc that puts pressure on nerves CNSO performs partial discectomy and minimally invasive and open microdiscectomy.
Spinal fusion helps stabilize the spine. Some conditions causing back pain may require spine surgeons to remove vertebrae, such as tumors on the spinal cord. Restructuring is necessary to ensure proper stability. Bone or bone-like filler (graft), or a synthetic device, is applied to help maintain alignment.
Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Spine
Whether because of personal or family history or other risk factors, some patients may be more inclined to experience conditions that cause back pain. However, certain lifestyle changes can strengthen spine health, lowering the risk for back pain, such as:
- Maintaining a balanced diet to maintain ideal body weight
- Following a stretching and exercising regimen
- Using ergonomic practices at work and with physical labor
Frequently Asked Questions About Thoracic Laminectomy
Is Thoracic Laminectomy the Only Solution for Spinal Stenosis?
No, many patients experience back pain relief through conservative treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, and epidural steroid injections.
Can a Minimally Invasive Approach Be Used for All Thoracic Spine Conditions?
No, some causes of back pain necessitate making a larger incision capable only through open surgery.
Can Thoracic Laminectomy Be Performed on an Outpatient Basis?
Minimally invasive thoracic laminectomy may be completed as an outpatient procedure.
How Do I Know If I Am a Suitable Candidate for Thoracic Laminectomy?
An orthopedic spine specialist or a neurosurgeon can help determine whether a patient may benefit from thoracic laminectomy. Patients who do not experience pain relief through conservative treatment methods, including pain management steroid injections, are often recommended for surgery.
Consult With CNSO for Thoracic Laminectomy
Patients who have yet to experience relief from back pain through non-surgical treatments may benefit from a thoracic laminectomy, provided their spine anatomy indicates such a procedure. By relieving pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, this operation enables patients to live pain free. For those seeking this surgery, working with experienced spine surgeons to direct and administer safe and effective treatment is critical. At Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics, patients find the highest level of coordinated care.
Serving northern NJ, CNSO has multiple convenient locations across the area, including in Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties. CNSO has neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, pain management, physiatry, rehabilitation specialists, and physical therapy. To learn more about thoracic laminectomy and other treatments or surgeries for back pain, contact CNSO today.