Decompression/Laminectomy

This procedure is similar to a discectomy in that it is performed to alleviate pain caused by nerve impingement. If the surgeon performs an open decompression/laminectomy the incision will be longer and more muscle is stripped. A small portion of the bone over the nerve root and/or disc material from under the nerve root is removed giving the nerve more space to heal. Most patients will feel some immediate pain relief after surgery. Some residual leg pain, numbness or weakness may persist for several weeks until the nerve has rejuvenated.

Hospital stay

On average patients will spend 2-3 nights in hospital. You may need to lie flat for 3-4 hours following the procedure and keep your spine aligned. After this time you will be able to sit up in bed to 45 degrees unless advised otherwise and may lie on your side if more comfortable, however not on your stomach yet. You will be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids.

The following day you will be mobilised in the morning with the assistance of a physiotherapist or a nurse. You will be mobilised gently initially and this should be increased daily. Each day post surgery you will be encouraged to undertake more activities for yourself such as washing and dressing.

Medication

On discharge you will be given approximately one week of analgesia and any other required medications. It is advisable that you continue taking your analgesia for at least two weeks post discharge. With most analgesia it is advisable to take a supplementary laxative as all analgesia has a constipating side effect. If you require further medications your GP should be able to write a prescription. Alternatively, your consultant will prescribe if appropriate at your follow-up appointment.

Mobility

In order to be discharged you need to be as independent as you were pre-surgery, if not more so.

Your surgeon may require that you wear a corset post surgery. This is to be worn when mobile and sitting, not lying.

When sitting a high backed arm chair is preferential to a low chair or sofa. Initially you may find sitting uncomfortable and it is advisable to build up how often and for how long you are sitting over the following few weeks. You should aim 4 weeks post surgery to be able to sit comfortably for 45mins-1hr at a time.

Driving

Your surgeon will advise, however it is common to abstain from driving for 3-4 weeks. You must be able to perform an emergency stop safely, without harming yourself or anyone else.

You are able to be a passenger in a car post surgery. It is advisable to sit in the passenger seat with the seat reclined and use a cushion for support if comfortable. If the journey is greater than 45mins have regular breaks and stretch your legs.

Flying

Your surgeon will advise, however it is common to abstain from flying for 4-6 weeks following surgery.

When flying it is advisable to recline your seat and regularly walk up and down the gangway.

Work

Your consultant will advise you on this, however 4 weeks of rest, away from work, is common. If possible graduate your return to work; a few hours a day for a few days a week. If absolutely necessary to take public transport travel at quiet times, early morning or late morning, avoiding rush hour. If you are in a sedentary job regularly stand and walk around. If you have an active job you may require a longer period off work and should consider lighter duties on your return.

Exercise

Your physiotherapist will advise you on any exercises to be done during your hospital stay. Walking is the most beneficial exercise for you initially and this can be increased daily. During your follow-up appointment your consultant will advise you as to whether you can increase your levels of activity. Once your wound has fully healed, you will be able to enjoy gentle swimming.

Do not lift anything over 3kg in weight. You must not bend or twist until advised otherwise.

Wound care

Your wound will have been closed with either clips or steristrips (paper strips) which will be removed 10-14 days post surgery. You will be advised pre-discharge of how to care for your wound. Ideally, the dressing should be changed every three days. You will have been given several spare waterproof dressings and may shower but not to bath. If you have clips in situ these will need to be removed by your practice nurse 10 days post surgery. Once the clips, or steristrips, have been removed the wound can be left uncovered and it is okay to get the wound wet.

Information given are guidelines and may vary from patient to patient.

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