If you have a lower back problem, a surgery could help treat it.
What is lumbar spinal stenosis?
Lumbar spinal stenosis is where the spinal canal narrows in your lower back. The spinal canal tends to narrow as we get older caused by bony overgrowth from wear and tear in the facet joints, thickening of surrounding ligaments and bulging of the discs. A narrowed spinal canal means that there is not enough space for the nerves and blood vessels. You may have difficulty walking and leg pain, often with a tingling sensation.
What are the benefits of surgery?
The aim is to prevent your symptoms getting worse. You may get less pain and be able to walk further. Some people have a major improvement.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
If your symptoms are mild, you may not need any treatment. If your symptoms are severe or are getting worse, surgery is usually the only option.
What does the procedure involve?
Various anaesthetic techniques are possible. The operation usually takes 1 to 2 hours. Your surgeon will make a vertical cut on the centre of your lower back. They will part the muscles to get to your spine. Your surgeon will remove enough bone and ligament tissue to open up the narrowed part of the canal, giving the nerves and blood vessels more room.
What complications can happen?
Like all surgical procedures, there are some levels of risks to consider. Some of these can be serious and can even cause death. However, you can speak to your doctor about the following general and specific complications that may worry you.
General complications of any operation
- Unsightly scarring of your skin
- Infection of the surgical site (wound)
- Difficulty passing urine
- Blood clot in your leg
- Blood clot in your lung
- Chest infection
- Heart attack or stroke
Specific complications of this operation
- Worse pain or numbness down your leg
- Numbness between your legs, loss of normal bowel and bladder control and, for men, problems having an erection
- Neuropathic pain. This is a burning pain that may happen once the pressure on the nerves has been released
- Tear of the thin membrane that covers the nerves in your spine
- Infection in your spine
- Spinal instability
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home after 1 to 2 days. Do not lift anything heavy or twist your body. Make sure you keep a good posture when sitting and walking. With regular exercise, it should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice. Spinal stenosis can sometimes come back at the same place or at a different place in your spine.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is where the spinal canal narrows in your lower back. This may cause pain or weakness in your legs. The aim of surgery is to prevent your symptoms getting worse. To find out more, call us on 0808 101 0337.
Author: Mr Richard Ashpole FRCS (Neuro. Surg.)
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