What is posterior decompression surgery?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

Posterior decompression surgery, also known as posterior cervical decompression, is a surgical procedure that is performed through the back of the neck to alleviate pressure on compressed nerves in the cervical spine region. This procedure is typically done to address conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, or bone spurs that may be causing nerve compression and resulting in pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the neck, arms, or hands.

During the surgery, the patient is placed under general anesthesia, ensuring that they are completely unconscious and pain-free throughout the procedure. The surgeon then makes an incision in the back of the neck, exposing the cervical spine. The muscles and tissues are gently moved aside to provide clear access to the affected area.

Once the surgical site is exposed, the surgeon carefully removes a portion of the cervical vertebrae, which may include the lamina, spinous processes, or parts of the facet joints. This approach allows the surgeon to create more space within the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the compressed nerves. The specific bone structures that are removed depend on the individual case and the location and severity of the nerve compression.

In some cases, the surgeon may also need to remove any herniated or degenerated discs that are contributing to the nerve compression. This can involve a discectomy, where the damaged disc material is excised, or a spinal fusion, where the adjacent vertebrae are permanently joined together using bone grafts or implants. These additional procedures are performed to stabilize the spine and prevent further nerve compression or instability.

After the necessary decompression and any additional procedures are completed, the surgeon carefully closes the incision and may use sutures or staples to secure the skin. The patient is then taken to the recovery area to wake up from anesthesia and be closely monitored by medical professionals.

Posterior cervical decompression surgery is generally considered a safe and effective procedure for relieving nerve compression in the cervical spine. However, as with any surgery, there are potential risks and complications that can arise. These may include infection, bleeding, damage to surrounding tissues or nerves, blood clots, or an adverse reaction to anesthesia. It is important for patients to discuss these risks with their surgeon and understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of the procedure.

Recovery from posterior decompression surgery can vary depending on the individual and the extent of the procedure. Patients may experience some pain, swelling, or discomfort in the neck and surrounding areas immediately after surgery. Medications, such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, are usually prescribed to help manage these symptoms. Physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises may also be recommended to promote healing, restore mobility, and strengthen the neck muscles.

It is important for patients to follow their surgeon’s post-operative instructions carefully, including any restrictions on activities, wound care, and follow-up appointments. With proper care and rehabilitation, most patients can expect to experience a significant improvement in their symptoms and a return to their normal daily activities within a few weeks to a few months after surgery.

Posterior decompression surgery is a surgical procedure performed through the back of the neck to relieve pressure on compressed nerves in the cervical spine region. It involves removing portions of the cervical vertebrae to create more space within the spinal canal and alleviate symptoms caused by nerve compression. While it is generally considered safe and effective, it is important for patients to fully understand the procedure, potential risks, and expected recovery process.