Decompressive Lumbar Hemilaminectomy

Back pain is a discomfort that is experienced by nearly everyone at some point in his or her life. Studies indicate that about 80 percent of all Americans will be troubled by general back pain and lower back pain (lumbar spine). In fact, pain in the lumbar spine is the most common source of back pain, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In fact, the American Academy of Pain Medicine reports that back pain is the leading cause of disability in adults aged 45 or younger.

Back pain may be caused by injury or may be chronic pain resulting from a degenerative condition, such as spinal stenosis. Although some back injuries and spinal conditions may be treated with nonsurgical methods, often, minimally invasive surgery is required to alleviate pain and restore normal function. One surgical method of treating lower back pain is decompressive lumbar hemilaminectomy or DLHL.

Treatable Conditions using DLHL

As its name indicates, decompressive lumbar hemilaminectomy is a “decompressive” procedure, meaning it is used to alleviate spinal compression. Conditions which cause compression of the spine in the lower back, or the lumbar spine, include spinal stenosis and unstable burst fractures.

Decompressive lumbar hemilaminectomy is typically used for treating lumbar spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition of the lower spine. Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when the space surrounding the spinal cord narrows and places pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This condition can cause back pain as well as pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs.

The narrowing of the spinal openings typical of spinal stenosis is usually the result of arthritis. Arthritis causes the facet joints of the spine to degenerate, and as they begin to deteriorate, the bones of the vertebrae begin to rub against each other, causing bone spurs which begin to compress the spine.

Process of the Surgery

DLHL is a surgical procedure intended to remove a portion of the bone and any bone spurs that are narrowing passage surrounding the spinal cord in order to alleviate the compression of the spine.

“Decompressive” refers to the intent of the procedure to restore space surrounding the spinal cord and eliminate compression. “Lumbar” refers to the location of the procedure, in this case, the lower back. “Hemilaminectomy” refers to the removal of the problematic bone, or lamina.

Laminectomy, sometimes called decompression, is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the lamina, the arched part of each vertebra that surrounds the spinal cord. Each vertebra has two lamina, during a laminectomy, the surgeon removes both lamina from the affected vertebrae. In decompressive lumbar hemilaminectomy, the surgeon only removes one of the lamina from each affected vertebrae.

Necessity of DLHL

For any spinal condition or back problem, there are a number of treatment options available, ranging from noninvasive, nonsurgical methods to minimally-invasive laparoscopic treatments to open surgery. Before embarking on any treatment plan or undergoing any medical procedure, it is important for an individual to consult with their doctor in order to understand the risks and benefits of any treatment method. Call a doctor today to discuss whether or not decompressive lumbar hemilaminectomy is the right choice.