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What can I Expect from Surgery for Spinal Stenosis?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Spinal stenosis is a medical condition that causes parts of the spine to narrow, causing pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. Many cases of spinal stenosis can be treated without surgical intervention, but sometimes surgery for spinal stenosis is the best treatment option. Surgery for spinal stenosis is performed to help increase motor strength in the arms and legs and to reduce pain. It may take several months to completely recover from surgery for spinal stenosis, although pain medications should be needed for only a few weeks. It is important to follow all instructions given by the medical staff after surgery for spinal stenosis.

Decompression surgery is a common type of surgical procedure for the condition of spinal stenosis. The goal of this type of procedure is to reduce any pressure on the spinal cord or the spinal nerves. If a bone spur or a portion of one of the spinal discs is causing the problem, a procedure known as a foraminotomy may be performed. In this procedure, a small hole is made into a portion of the vertebrae so the affected nerve is no longer compressed.

If a larger hole is needed, the type of decompression surgery for spinal stenosis is known as a laminotomy. If neither the foraminotomy nor the laminotomy is sufficient, a different type of decompression surgery, known as a laminectomy, may become necessary. In this procedure, a thin plate on the vertebrae, known as the lamina, may need to be partially or completely removed.

In some cases, stabilization surgery for spinal stenosis may become necessary. In this type of surgery, plates, screws, or rods may have to be fused to the spine. This is particularly true when a laminectomy has been performed.

Following surgery for spinal stenosis, the patient is often encouraged to try to start walking within 24 hours. All movements will need to be slow and deliberate for several weeks following surgery. The patient will be given very specific instructions on sitting, standing, and walking. While recovery from this type of surgery can be lengthy, it is worth noting that the vast majority of patients experience very positive results from this type of procedure. Any bothersome symptoms that develop following the surgical procedure should be discussed with the doctor, and it is important to keep all scheduled doctor visits so that any potential complications can be diagnosed and treated right away.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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