A posterior cervical laminectomy is a type of cervical spine surgery performed through the back of the neck. It can be done with or without a lateral mass fusion.
This procedure aims to relieve any pressure on the spinal cord or nerves by removing a portion of the bony roof of the spinal canal, known as the lamina. A neurosurgeon may remove other structures causing compression, such as overgrown facet joints, bony spurs and herniated discs, during this operation.
A person may need to have a cervical laminectomy with our without a lateral mass fusion if they are diagnosed with spinal conditions such as cervical spinal stenosis, cervical myelopathy or spinal trauma.
The laminae and facet joints play an important role in stabilising the spine and preventing vertebrae from slipping. Sometimes after a neurosurgeon removes multiple laminae and facet joints to relieve pressure on a person’s spinal cord, or corrects forward bending (kyphosis) of the cervical spine, they will then fuse the vertebrae to ensure the affected area maintains its stability.
How is a posterior cervical laminectomy done?
A neurosurgeon will begin a posterior cervical laminectomy by making an incision (5-7cm) down the middle of the back of a person’s neck. They will then carefully separate muscles attached to spine, with care being taken to preserve the muscle fibres.
Once the bony roof of the lamina is properly exposed, a neurosurgeon will carefully remove it with a combination of instruments. This will increase the space surrounding the spinal cord, freeing it from compression. They will also remove any soft tissue causing compression and free any compressed nerve roots by removing potentially compressive structures.
How is a lateral mass fusion done?
If a person needs a fusion, their surgeon will use metal implants, including screws and rods, to fix the vertebrae in place. Their surgeon will also use a bone graft to create a bridge between each vertebra. They will fix screws to solid, bony structures on each side of the vertebral bone known as the ‘lateral masses’ (hence why the procedure is called a ‘lateral mass fixation/fusion). This will help to ensure stability and strength in a person’s cervical spine.
A medical team will take an x-ray to confirm the position of the rods and screws, and the alignment of a person’s vertebrae. After this, a neurosurgeon will close the wound with self-dissolving sutures. They will place a dressing over the wound. In some cases, a person may be given a wound drain for one to two days after surgery.
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