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Please see the ANIMATION on Lumbar Laminectomy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Laminectomy

How long of a hospital stay can I expect?

  1. For a one or two level procedure, most patients go home the same or next day. If you are having three or more levels operated on, you will be in the hospital for approximately 2 – 3 days. If your pain level is tolerable and you are doing well medically, you can expect to be discharged.
  2. Will I need a brace?No, Dr. Shim normally does not prescribe a brace after a Laminectomy, unless you are also having a fusion performed.
  3. What is the approximate time it will take me to recuperate?While everyone’s pain tolerances and conditions differ, most recover from this type of surgery with a 4 to 6 week time period.
  4. How long before I can return to work?This depends on the type of work you perform and the duties involved. Dr. Shim will discuss this with you during your first post-operative follow-up visit. In general, most patients can return to a sit down type job with no lifting required within 2-3 weeks after surgery. Those patients who have heavier duty occupations requiring lifting, pushing, pulling, and overhead activity can expect to be out 4- 6 weeks.
  5. How long before I can drive?Most patients can return to driving 10 – 14 days after a laminectomy.
  6. How should I take care of my surgical incision?Your incision may be closed with dissolving sutures or staples. We are now utilizing a very effective dressing called Silverlon.  Please do not remove or change this dressing.  You may shower with it.  Just pat it dry.  It is designed to get wet.  We will remove the dressing in the office and instruct further wound care after inspection.  Most of the time,  the wound will be healed by the first office visit.
  7. When can I walk?As a normal part of the post-operative period, we encourage you to get up and walk the morning after your surgery. You may walk as much as you can tolerate.
  8. Will I require the use of a walking aid?Some patients do use an assistive device such as a cane or walker after surgery. This is determined on a individual basis.
  9. Will I need therapy after surgery?A therapist may come to your home upon your discharge from the hospital to instruct you on basic fundamentals. Dr. Shim will determine if you require outpatient therapy at the time of your first office visit. Some patients will not require any therapy.
  10. How long will my sutures stay in place?If you have staples, they will be removed approximately 14 days after surgery. If you have a smaller incision with dissolving sutures, there will be nothing to remove.
  11. Will I be able to have sexual relations after surgery?Yes, you may resume sexual activities as soon as you feel up to it. This may be a few days or even a week after you come home from the hospital. You should avoid positions which cause increased back discomfort.
  12. How long before I can fly in a plane?Most patients are free to travel after their initial post-operative visit 10 –14 days after surgery. Patients who may have been experiencing any problems during this time may be encourage to wait a little longer before traveling. Keep in mind, you will not be able to carry any luggage greater than approximately 10 –15 pounds for the first 4 weeks after surgery.
  13. How long before I can take a bath at home?You will need to avoid taking a bath or submerging in water for approximately 3 weeks after surgery.
  14. How long before I can shower at home?As stated above, we are now using the Silverlon dressing.  It is designed to get wet.  Just pat dry after a shower.  But, please do not remove the dressing.  It will be removed in the office on the first post-op visit.
  15. Do I need to be on a stool softener?A stool softener will be ordered for you while in the hospital. You may discontinue this after your first bowel movement or at your discretion.
  16. Is it alright to sleep on a waterbed?We encourage you to sleep on at least a semi-firm surface following surgery. Some water mattresses may be too soft immediately after surgery.
  17. Will I be able to walk up stairs?Most patients will be able to walk up stairs after surgery. You should limit the amount of times you go up and down the stairs during your first few days home. We encourage you to use a handrail if one is available.
  18. Will I be able to go swimming?Yes, in approximately 3 weeks after surgery.
  19. When will my pain improve?Everyone’s pain tolerances and conditions do vary. In general, many patients experience some relief of their leg symptoms immediately after surgery. It is not uncommon to have back soreness, stiffness, and incisional discomfort for several weeks beyond surgery. For some patients, the pain level may decline slowly over weeks or even months after surgery.
  20. Why does everything hurt 2 or 3 days after surgery when I felt so good immediately afterwards?Several reasons for this. First, you were given medications to help relax you and your pain during the surgery along with the anesthesia. This combination of medications may stay in your system for a day or two after surgery. Secondly, as you start feeling better, most patients become a bit more active, this can lead to increased discomfort initially.
  21. Why is my throat sore?A sore throat can result from anesthesia in some cases. You received an endo-tracheal intubation (“tube”) into you throat to help you breath during the procedure. This may have irritated the lining of your throat. This soreness and even some difficulty swallowing tends to resolve within a few weeks after surgery.
  22. When do I call the doctor?If you experience any fevers over 101.5 degrees, any wound drainage, swelling or redness around your surgical incision, increasing pain, tingling or numbness that you did not have before surgery, difficulty swallowing, difficulty walking, severe headaches or weakness, call your doctor.
  23. How will I know what is too heavy to lift?You can lift up to 10 lbs after surgery until your first post-operative visit. After 10 – 14 days you will be able to lift more. Heavy lifting is usually not recommended before 6 weeks after surgery.

Last modified: October 22, 2019