Illustration of a laminectomy.

If spinal stenosis is the main cause of your neck pain, then the spinal canal must be made larger and any bone spurs pressing on the nerves must be removed. One way that this is done is with a complete laminectomy (lam-in-eck-toe-mee). Laminectomy means "remove the lamina". The lamina is the back side of the spinal canal and forms the roof over the spinal cord. Removing the lamina gives more room for the nerves and lets the surgeon remove any bone spurs from around the nerves. A laminectomy reduces the pressure on the spinal cord and relieves the irritation and inflammation of the spinal nerves.

In the cervical spine, removing the lamina completely may cause problems with the stability of the facet joints between each vertebra. If the joints are damaged during the laminectomy, the spine may begin to tilt forward, causing problems later. One way that spine surgeons try to prevent this problem is to not actually remove the lamina. Instead, they simply cut one side of the lamina and fold it back slightly. The other side of the lamina opens like a hinge. This makes the spinal canal larger giving the spinal cord more room. The cut area of the lamina eventually heals to keep the spine from tilting forward.



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