Decompression

Lumbar decompression surgery is a type of spinal surgery used to treat some conditions affecting the lower back (lumbar spine) that haven't responded to other treatments.

The main aim of this type of surgery is to improve problems affecting the legs, such as persistent pain and numbness, caused by pressure on the nerves in the spine. It is not a treatment specifically for back pain, although some people do have reduced pain in their lower back after surgery.

Symptoms

Spinal stenosis – where a section of the spinal column becomes narrowed and places pressure on the nerves inside

Slipped disc and sciatica – where one of the spinal discs becomes damaged and presses down on an underlying nerve

Spinal injuries – such as a fracture or the swelling of tissue

Metastatic spinal cord compression – where cancer in one part of the body, such as the lungs, spreads into the spine and presses on the spinal cord or nerves

How does a lumbar decompression work?

You will usually have at least one of the following procedures:

laminectomy – where a section of vertebrae (the lamina) is removed to relieve pressure on the affected nerve

discectomy – where a section of a damaged disc is removed to relieve pressure on a nerve

spinal fusion – where two or more vertebrae are joined together with a section of bone to stabilise and strengthen the spine

In many cases, a combination of these techniques may be used.