How Safe Is the Laminoplasty Procedure for People Above 70?

Many people over the age of 70 require laminoplasty surgery and as an elderly person it is common to feel uneasy about such a procedure and you may worry about the possible complications, and whether the surgery is actually worth it.

In this article, we will discuss what a Laminoplasty actually is, why you may need it, possible complications and how long it may take to recover from the surgery. 

What is the laminoplasty procedure?

A cervical laminoplasty is a form of surgery that intends to relieve pressure on the spinal cord in the neck. This pressure can result from numerous issues such as; arthritis; bone spurs; herniated discs; spinal injuries such as fractures; and degenerative issues resulting from the aging process.

The issue is commonly known as cervical spinal stenosis and can affect just one level of the spine, or multiple levels simultaneously. If this issue becomes severe then the symptoms can have a big impact on a person’s quality of life, causing pain, discomfort, and a lack of mobility. 

Although it sounds rather gruesome, the procedure is often known as an ‘open door laminoplasty’ as during surgery, the vertebrae are effectively opened just like the opening of a door. 

Why would a person need a Laminoplasty?

A person requiring laminoplasty surgery is likely to be suffering from a narrowing of the cervical spinal canal which places pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots causing significant pain and numbing and weakening of the limbs, sometimes impacting a person’s ability to walk. In extreme cases, this could also result in paralysis if left untreated.

The goal of a laminoplasty is to prevent this problem from worsening and relieve a person from pain

Is the Laminoplasty procedure safe for people above 70?

Laminoplasty surgery for people above 70 is no different from any other sort of major surgery and the patient would be considered high risk, however, this does not mean anyone should go into the operation fearing the worst outcomes.

Below is a list of potential complications which could occur as a result of surgery;

  • The spinal cord, or nerve root damage, causes weakness, or in severe cases, some paralysis.
  • Pain and numbness due to manipulation of the nerves
  • Leaking of Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence
  • Impotence
  • A continuation, or a resumption of the pain experienced before surgery
  • Blood Clots / Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Bleeding of major blood vessels
  • Infections

Although any surgery can result in complications like the ones stated above, general anesthesia can also pose a risk to someone who is classed as elderly, as an aging brain can be more prone to problems that are related to the medication. 

A temporary issue caused by anesthesia is Postoperative Delirium which may only become apparent a few days after the surgery and can last around a week. This condition causes confusion and disorientation, as well as impacts memory and attention span.

A more serious condition that can be caused by the general anesthetic is Postoperative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD) and can potentially lead to long-term memory loss as well as reduce a person’s concentration levels and learning capacity. The risk of this condition is increased if a person has previously suffered conditions such as; stroke, heart or lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease.

What is the success rate of the laminoplasty procedure?

The success of a laminoplasty procedure, with the aim of preventing neurological functions or paralysis from worsening, is considered high. 

Improving a person’s functionality is not the aim of a laminoplasty but in some cases, this can happen, however, a patient should not expect this to be the goal of the procedure.

Reports show that some neurological functionality is improved in up to 60% of patients.

What is the average laminoplasty recovery time?

A patient can generally expect to return to the majority of activities within four-to-six weeks of the procedure taking place. Whereas a complete recovery is expected to take between six-to-twelve weeks. Although this time can likely be extended for someone who is over the age of 70, who should not rush the recovery process.

In some cases, a soft neck brace may need to be worn for two weeks following the operation. 

A person should be able to drive a car after two weeks of the surgery taking place. 

Physical therapy can also accelerate the recovery time in many cases.

Which procedure to choose? laminoplasty vs laminectomy

Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition that can affect many people around the world and if left untreated the symptoms can worsen considerably, sometimes requiring surgery. The two main types of surgery used to alleviate the symptoms and stop the condition from getting worse are a Laminoplasty lumbar and a Laminectomy.

But which operation is the best option? laminoplasty vs laminectomy.

Often, the decision depends on the severity of the condition and the extent of the deformity. Traditionally, a laminectomy would be the most common procedure used to decompress the spinal cord to improve functionality and reduce pain. 

However, a laminoplasty is much less intrusive, with only one side of the lamina being disconnected during surgery, better preserving the bone, as well as the surrounding tissue and muscles. 

As such, the benefits of a laminoplasty outweigh that of a laminectomy, purely from a recovery point of view, as usual, less tissue damage takes place and the vertebra is better preserved. 

Conclusion

  • A laminoplasty is a procedure that alleviates pressure on the spinal cord.
  • This procedure has a high success rate in terms of preventing neurological function from worsening.
  • A laminoplasty causes less tissue damage and only one side of the lamina is disconnected, compared to a laminectomy. 
  • This is a form of major surgery and complications are possible, with over 70s more at risk of encountering a complication than younger people. However, the chances of complications are still low. 

We hope this article has helped to answer any questions you may have about the laminoplasty procedure and its overall safety.