Lumbar Decompression

Lumbar decompression surgery is sometimes offered if your symptoms haven’t improved with other treatments. It can help improve pain and numbness in your legs which has been caused by spinal stenosis (pressure on the spine); a slipped disc; sciatica; or a spinal fracture. More rarely, it is used to treat cauda equine syndrome where the nerves in the lumbar spine (lower back) become compressed suddenly, requiring emergency surgery.

What does the procedure involve?

This procedure, carried out under a general anaesthetic, may involve a number of procedures to release pressure from the nerves in the spine including:

  •     Laminectomy
  •     Spinal fusion
  •     Discectomy

The procedure usually takes at least an hour, depending on the type of surgery. The surgeon operates from the back of the spine (so you will lie on your front). Most people are well enough to go home between one and five days after surgery.

How successful is it?

Lumbar decompression, either with or without spinal fusion, as a treatment for spinal stenosis, is successful in around 80 per cent of patients, with most able to carry on with their everyday activities.

How long does it take to recover?

Most people will be able to walk within a day of the procedure, gradually resuming everyday activities over the following six weeks. Your specialist will give you a targeted rehabilitation programme so you can return to your usual sporting activities.

When can I return to work?

Your surgeon will be able to advise you about this, depending on your job and your rate of progress and recovery.

When can I return to sport?

Your specialist will be able to advise you about this but most people are able to progressively start to return to sport after six weeks.

Important: This information is only a guideline to help you understand your treatment and what to expect. Everyone is different and your rehabilitation may be quicker or slower than other people’s. Please contact us for advice if you’re worried about any aspect of your health or recovery.