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Post Laminectomy Syndrome

Post-laminectomy syndrome is a general term used to describe a variety of chronic pain syndromes experienced by patients as they recover from a type of back surgery called a laminectomy. The precise cause of post-laminectomy syndrome is unknown. One possibility is epidural fibrosis. This is scar tissue that develops after surgery and presses on the nerves and leads to pain.

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Post-laminectomy symptoms are broad and varied with most patients experiencing pain in the lower back, neck, or extremities. Symptoms can include:

  • Radiating pain into arms or legs
  • Sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Abnormal nerve response to stimulation
  • Feelings of heaviness or weighted legs

More serious symptoms include loss of bowel or bladder control, require a more serious examination in the emergency department.

Diagnosis is made following surgery if your doctor recognizes a developing pattern of chronic pain and poorer-than-expected post-surgical outcomes. An MRI or X-ray can look for inflammation or other structural abnormalities at the lamina removal site.

Because there is a mental health component to recovery, your doctor may perform a mental health screening to rule out any potential mental health challenges that are interfering with your recovery.

Treatments are tailored to your symptoms, although there are generally five treatments we use:

  1. Physical therapy and exercise. Rehab after surgery is crucial to build up your core stabilizing muscles to help strengthen back muscles for a better recovery.
  2. Antidepressants or other medications. There is a strong link between mental health challenges and pain. The type of medication prescribed is based on the patient’s need and a previous health history.
  3. Adhesiolysis (also called lysis of adhesions or the Racz procedure) uses injections to break up scar tissue that might be pressing on nerves and causing pain.
  4. Spinal cord stimulation may be appropriate for some patients. SPC uses an electric current  to replace pain signals with a mild buzzing sensation.
  5. Additional surgery might be required in some cases to remove missed lamina, scar tissue, or to offer further pain relief.

Are you ready to stop living life in pain?