Post-laminectomy syndrome describes persistent back pain occurring after any back surgery but is most commonly associated with a laminectomy.
During this procedure, a surgeon removes a portion of the vertebral bone to relieve pressure placed on the spinal cord by a protruding disc. This condition is sometimes referred to as failed back surgery syndrome. There are several ways this condition occurs:
Lumbar post-laminectomy syndrome refers to pain felt in the lumbar, or lower, part of the spine. Post-laminectomy syndrome can also affect the cervical, or upper portion of the spine, and the thoracic, or middle, part of the spine. Thoracic post-laminectomy syndrome is rare. This condition is not yet fully understood, but researchers continue to study it. One current prominent theory among researchers is that this condition is caused by scar tissue development that causes pain by compressing nearby nerve roots.
While another back surgery is a treatment option, medical professionals tend to treat lumbar post-laminectomy syndrome with at least one of the following treatment options before performing another surgery:
One of the most common symptoms of lumbar post-laminectomy syndrome is lower back pain – especially at the surgery site.
Leg pain typically accompanies lumbar pain, and neurologic symptoms, such as temperature changes, feelings of heaviness, and loss of strength, may occur in your arms or legs. The surgery site may remain tender to the touch, and you may experience difficulties when performing daily activities or sleeping. Some may alter their posture and vary their gait when walking to compensate for lower back pain.
One of the first questions your doctor will ask is your most recent back surgery date, so ensure you record the dates of any back surgeries as you track your symptoms after the surgery. Your surgeon performing the surgery will inform you how long until you feel pain relief following the operation. Knowing that expected timeline can help you determine when to see a doctor about post-laminectomy syndrome.
Proper diagnosis is important for this condition, so your doctor may order any of the following diagnostic tests to eliminate any other possible causes of lower back pain:
Your physician may refer you to a specialist for further testing and diagnosis.
There are many potential causes for lingering back pain following back surgery.
There are two risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing post-laminectomy syndrome: smoking and previous history of failed back surgeries.
US surgeons conduct about 500,000 spinal surgeries per year with approximately one-fifth (20%) of back surgeon patients living with some form of residual back pain after their surgery.
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