Orange County Lumbar

Lumbar laminectomy surgery is a common procedure where the lamina, a part of the vertebrae, is removed. This is done in order to relieve compression in the spinal canal.

What is a Lumbar Laminectomy?

The lumbar section of the spine involves the vertebrae in the lower back. Each vertebral bone has a wing-shaped notch, the lamina, that provides support and protection for the backside of the spinal canal.

During a lumbar laminectomy surgery, the lamina, or “winged” back of the vertebrae is removed. By removing the lamina, the compression on the nerves in the spine is relieved, thus alleviating the pain this causes.

What does lumbar laminectomy surgery treat?

A bone spur, or bony growth, can grow along the edge of bone and disrupt the alignment of the vertebral spine. Bone spurs can pinch nerves in the spine and cause pain. These bony overgrowths can be removed during a lumbar laminectomy surgery.

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal cord, which puts pressure on the nerves and causes pain. During a lumbar laminectomy, a part of the vertebrae is removed in order to relieve this pressure on the spine.


Arthritis commonly occurs in the lumbar spine and causes bone spurs and ligament thickening. These structures then crowd into the space that houses the nerves, causing pain, weakness, and sensory changes. These issues will be addressed during the surgical procedure.


What is a lumbar laminectomy versus a laminotomy?

A laminectomy is a surgical procedure in which there is a complete removal of the vertebral lamina from the lumbar spine in order to relieve compression, whereas during a laminotomy there is only a partial removal of the lamina.

What is an open lumbar laminectomy?

Some lumbar surgeries can be performed as a minimally invasive surgery, focusing on minimizing soft tissue damage. Traditionally, an open lumbar laminectomy involves cutting through more soft tissue to access the spine. Dr. Jeremy Smith, M.D., is a highly sought-after spinal surgeon, who specializes in minimally invasive surgeries and has a very successful track record.


Who is a good candidate for a
lumbar laminectomy surgery?

Dr. Smith always advocates for the most conservative treatment options first; however, not all conditions are treatable with non-surgical options. At Dr. Jeremy Smith, M.D., we offer medication and physical therapy to start, but if they fail to improve symptoms, a lumbar laminectomy may be considered as a treatment option. 

Some symptoms that point to a lumbar spinal condition may include: low back pain, muscle weakness and/or numbness in the legs. Pain in the low back and legs may also radiate out into the feet and also cause tingling.

Additional symptoms may include a loss of bowel or bladder control, which can be a sign that emergent surgical intervention is required. In those cases, emergent, hospital-based evaluation may be recommended. These symptoms may cause serious changes in quality of life, but at Dr. Jeremy Smith, M.D., we are committed to finding a treatment option for you. 

Why Choose Orange County
Spinal Surgeon, Dr. Jeremy Smith

Dr. Smith is a fellowship trained orthopaedic spinal surgeon who is sought after by patients and fellow doctors alike. He has treated over 50,000 patients with numerous spinal conditions and traumas and has become a leading surgeon in an elite medical field. His studies have been published in numerous journals – some of which have led to major advancements in the field – and his commitment to community in Orange County extends beyond caring for his patients, he also mentors new surgeons in the industry. 

For the last 18 years, Dr. Smith leads with compassion and a listening ear. He has hope for every patient, regardless of their condition, to pursue and achieve a pain-free life. He is also the Division Chief and Chief of Staff of Spine Surgery for the Hoag Orthopaedic Institute in Irvine, CA. 

Dr. Smith is dedicated to staying abreast of advances in technology, and remains steadfast in providing a state-of-the-art facility to his patients. Dr. Smith has a proven track record and is committed to finding the best possible outcome for each of his patients.


What is the best way
to prepare for a lumbar

There are several ways in which you can prepare for your upcoming lumbar laminectomy. First, if you smoke, stop – smoking can slow down and impede the recovery process. Second, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and commit to a regular exercise routine. Third, lower your stress level by committing to the best possible sleep routine before surgery.

The Surgical Process - Step by Step

After anesthesia is administered, your surgeon will make an incision. Then, a laminectomy will be performed. Next, the spinal canal will be decompressed, followed by the spinal nerves. If a fusion is being performed it will happen next. Finally, your surgeon will close the incision. Typically, a lumbar laminectomy will take between 30-90 minutes to complete. 

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Following surgery, your surgeon will place you on a lift, bend, pull, twist restriction of activity for a period of time. You will probably need between 2-6 weeks to recover from the initial surgery, but it may take up to 6-12 weeks to fully recover.

Physical therapy is paramount to your recovery after surgery. Our bodies need to regain strength in the areas surrounding the surgical site – ask your doctor what this may look like for you post-op, and how you can prepare for this before your surgery. Physical therapy allows us to regain not only our mobility but also our strength.

How long is the typical recovery period following a lumbar laminectomy?

It is normal to expect to require some assistance at home when initially recovering from surgery, from meal prep, to bathing, to reorganizing your living space so that no lifting/pulling/pushing is necessary in order to accomplish daily tasks. You may also need assistance with creating a medication chart.

Benefits, Risks, and Expectations of Lumbar Laminectomy:

Once you have passed the initial recovery period, you will start to notice less pain in the region of the lumbar spine that has now been decompressed. You should feel less tingling and weakness in the legs, and your range of motion should begin to feel much improved. Physical therapy will also help you activate muscles that will help to support your spine throughout your recovery process. 

Dr. Smith is very purposeful with how he plans his surgeries, and is very precise. His expert techniques minimize the risks associated with lumbar laminectomy, but as with any surgery, there are potential risks. Robotic assistance and real-time imaging systems have allowed for more direct incisions and surgical movements during this procedure. 

Spinal surgery can be difficult on the body, as can anesthesia, and the timeline for healing is different for every patient. However, it is realistic to expect to see an improvement in your symptoms past the 6-week mark, post-surgery. Speak with your surgeon regarding expectations for how long to expect the healing effects of a laminectomy to last.


What Patients Say:


    “Dr. Smith is not only <em>extremely compassionate</em> and caring, but a <em>talented and skilled surgeon</em>. He performed my second cervical fusion and will now do a posterior cervical fusion. <em>I am truly grateful</em> to have been referred to him with all of the pain I’ve suffered. I am certain that working together we will find the pain relief I so desperately need. <em>Thank you Dr. Smith!</em>”


      "I had spinal fusion surgery in 2019 from Dr. Smith. I was personally devastated. As an extremely active individual, I thought my life was over. Going into 2023, I'm in better physical shape than anytime in my life. As an avid cyclist I ride 100 plus miles harder and faster than anyone I know. I ski. I work out. I've had ZERO issues. If you ever want a pro bono testimonial I'm all in. Dr. Smith and team literally saved my life."


        "Thank you for truly saving my life on March 30, 2022. The pain I had was almost too over bearing for me that it sent me into a depression that was changing my whole life and not for the better. You and your staff and the entire hospital, treated me like a VIP/ aka.Princess and I’m eternally grateful that it all started with you, your wonderful PAs and your God blessed talents."

        Frequently Asked Questions

        What is the success rate of a lumbar laminectomy procedure?

        Between 85-90% of patients who suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis find relief from leg pain and numbness after having a lumbar laminectomy surgery.

        Are there alternatives to lumbar laminectomy?

        Some non-surgical alternatives to a lumbar laminectomy include: pain management and physical therapy treatments.

        Can a lumbar laminectomy weaken the spine?

        There is a reduced strength and shear stiffness (SS) of lumbar motion segments following a laminectomy which may lead to instability. Dr. Smith mitigates this risk by ensuring he leaves enough bone to continue to provide structural support, but also adequately decompresses the nerves and spinal canal.

        Are there permanent restrictions after a laminectomy?

        There are several short-term restrictions after a laminectomy, such as: no lifting over 10lbs, no sports, no aerobic or cardio activities, no bending or twisting at the waist, no strenuous or jarring activities. After the initial 6 weeks and with a course of postoperative physical therapy, there are no permanent movement restrictions. Activity recommendations are patient specific, and when in doubt, always ask your surgeon first.

        IN THE PRESS

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