Laminectomy is an inpatient procedure performed under general anesthesia. An incision is made in the back over the affected region, and the back muscles are dissected to expose the spinal cord. The lamina is then removed from the vertebral body, along with any inflamed or thickened ligaments that may be contributing to compression. Following resection, the muscles are reapproximated and the soft tissues sutured back into place. The extent of laminectomy varies, but most commonly extends two levels above and below the site of maximal cord compression.
Hemilaminotomy and laminotomy, sometimes called laminoforaminotomy, are less invasive than a laminectomy. These procedures focus on the interlaminar space, where most of the pathologic changes are concentrated, minimizing resection of the stabilizing posterior spine. A laminotomy typically removes the inferior aspect of the cranial lamina, the superior aspect of the subjacent lamina, the ligamentum flavum, and the medial aspect of the facet joint. Unlike laminectomy, laminotomy does not disrupt the facet joints, supra- and interspinous ligaments, a major portion of the lamina, or the muscular attachments. Muscular dissection and retraction are required to achieve adequate surgical visualization.
Summary of Evidence
For individuals who have lumbar spinal stenosis and spinal cord or nerve root compression who receive lumbar laminectomy, the evidence includes randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and a systematic review of RCTs. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, health status measures, quality of life, and treatment-related mortality and morbidity. In individuals with spinal stenosis, there is sufficient evidence that laminectomy is more effective than nonoperative "usual care" in individuals with spinal stenosis who do not improve after eight (8) weeks of conservative treatment. The superiority of laminectomy is sustained through eight (8) years of follow-up. This conclusion applies best to individuals who do not want to undergo intensive, organized conservative treatment, or who do not have access to such a program. For individuals who want to delay surgery and participate in an organized program of physical therapy and exercise, early surgery with the combination of conservative initial treatment and delayed surgery in selected individuals have similar outcomes at two (2) years. From a policy perspective, this means that immediate laminectomy and intensive conservative care are both viable options. The evidence is sufficient to determine that the technology results in an improvement in the net health outcome.
For individuals who have cervical spinal stenosis and spinal cord or nerve root compression who receive cervical laminectomy, the evidence includes RCTs and nonrandomized comparative studies. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, health status measures, quality of life, and treatment-related mortality and morbidity. There is a lack of high-quality, comparative evidence for this indication, although what evidence there is offers outcomes similar to those for lumbar spinal stenosis. Given the parallels between cervical laminectomy and lumbar laminectomy, a chain of evidence can be developed that the benefit reported for lumbar laminectomy supports a benefit for cervical laminectomy. The evidence is sufficient to determine that the technology results in an improvement in the net health outcome.
For individuals who have space-occupying lesion(s) of the spinal canal or nerve root compression who receive cervical, thoracic, or lumbar laminectomy, the evidence includes case series. Relevant outcomes are symptoms, functional outcomes, health status measures, quality of life, and treatment-related mortality and morbidity. Most case series are small and retrospective. They have reported that most patients with myelopathy experience improvements in symptoms or abatement of symptom progression after laminectomy. However, this uncontrolled evidence does not provide a basis to determine the efficacy of the procedure compared with alternatives. The evidence is insufficient to determine that the technology results in an improvement in the net health outcome.