Decompression surgery is any surgery that relieves compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves. If the compression results from a disc herniation, the surgery is a discectomy. If the compression is because of a narrowed spinal canal that is placing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, this surgery is a laminectomy. A laminectomy removes the back wall of the spinal canal to create more space for the spinal cord.
Decompression surgery is typically used to treat the following:
- Radicular pain
- Conditions associated with nerve compression
What To Expect
Once you have decided to have neck or back surgery, the following events take place:
- A medical examination.
- Chest X-ray, EKG and blood work.
- You may be asked to have a neurological or psychological examination.
- If taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications daily, stop these medications at least one week before surgery.
- If you take prescription medications or other drugs, including herbals, ask your doctor how soon you should stop taking these before neck or back surgery.
- Do not have anything to eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
- You will check into the hospital the morning of decompression surgery.
- Prior to surgery, you will be asked to sign consents for surgery, anesthesia, blood and blood products.
An epidural steroid injection usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes:
- The patient lies flat on his/her abdomen on an X-ray table.
- The skin is numbed with lidocaine. The skin is numbed with lidocaine. Intravenous sedation may be requested by the patient.
- Using fluoroscopy (live X-ray) for guidance, the physician directs a needle toward the epidural space. Fluoroscopy is considered important so that the physician can more easily determine if the needle is in the right place.
- The steroid solution is injected (you may feel heaviness and/or numbness in your legs caused by the anesthetic). This generally lasts only a few hours.
- Following the steroid injection, the patient is usually monitored 15 to 20 minutes before being discharged to go home.
- It is important that the patient have someone drive him/her home after the steroid injection.
- Patients are usually asked to rest on the day of the injection.
- Normal activities (those that were done the week prior to the injection), including work, may typically be resumed the following day. Please note that your back may be sore for 24 to 48 hours.
There is no definitive research to dictate how often a patient should have epidural steroid injections. In general, it is considered reasonable to perform up to three epidural steroid injections per year, but no more than four during this period. The decision to do a series of injections is usually based on the patient’s response to the first injection.