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Every surgery has its risks and potential, and laminectomy complications are no exception. Finding a surgeon that is highly experienced, successful at and comfortable performing the procedure is the first step toward a positive outcome. A little homework can go a long way when it comes time to choose the right person to perform your laminectomy surgery.

What is a Laminectomy?

In the most simple terms, a laminectomy consists of removing the back portion of one or more vertebrae in the spine. It is a common surgery but one that requires a skilled and experienced surgeon. Laminectomies may be done for a number of reasons, but they are most often performed to relieve pressure on nerves that produces symptoms of back and leg pain.

What Are Some Possible Complications With Laminectomies?

Although laminectomies are routine procedures, they, as all surgeries, carry risk of complications.

  • Nerve injury. Although very, very uncommon , the possibility still exists for injury or damage to occur to the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
  • Infection. All surgeries carry the risk of infection — a good surgeon and pre- and post-operative care should include a full assessment and inclusion of antibiotics to prevent infection from establishing in or around the surgical site.
  • Blood clots. Clotting is a natural (and essential) part of a healthy circulatory system. Occasionally, post-op blood clots can form in the legs and dislodge, traveling to the lungs. This is why it is of great importance to have a candid discussion with your doctor about your clotting risk, and it’s doubly important if you or anyone in your family has a clotting disorder.
  • Bleeding. As with clotting, if you have a condition that predisposes you to excessive bleeding, discuss this with your surgeon prior to your procedure. Precautions can be taken to minimize the risk of a bleeding incident.

Finding the Best Surgeon for You

It’s of the utmost importance that you literally trust your surgeon with your life. If you don’t feel completely comfortable allowing someone to operate on you, keep looking until you find someone you are comfortable with. Some of the traits of a good surgeon include:

  • Willingness to meet with you and answer all your questions. If you find yourself face-to-face with a surgeon that seems to be distracted or disinterested, it’s probably a good sign that you need to move on. You should be the central focus of your prospective surgeon when you sit down for a consultation. It’s true that surgeons are incredibly busy people. Regardless of this fact, they should always be willing to find the time to communicate with you, be it via phone, email or in-person. It’s acceptable for them to relay information through their support staff for minor issues, but if you have serious questions, you need to have direct access to the surgeon within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Fully specialized in performing laminectomies. Don’t hesitate to ask how many laminectomies your prospective surgeon has performed and if there were any failures or other negative outcomes. They should be completely forthcoming with not only the successful — but also the unsuccessful — procedures they’ve performed. You have every right to look into his or her track record to determine if they are the right person for the job. Additionally, board certification indicates that they have proven that they hold the most up-to-date knowledge and skills and are fully capable of performing surgeries and procedures in their area of expertise.
  • Excellent communication. Surgeons should be able to communicate clearly with you about any questions or concerns you may have. They should also be able to readily explain difficult concepts and get back to you if they need to do further research to better answer your questions.
  • Kind, friendly and knowledgeable staff. It’s integral that a surgeon’s practice have a competent and personable staff to assist you from the second you walk in the door to moment you leave from your last post-op check-up. Rude or apathetic staff is never acceptable in any business setting, but particularly when it comes to your health and well-being. Similarly, if a surgeon’s staff isn’t organized and knowledgeable, it’s a good indication that there is a break somewhere in the organization. If you find you’re at all uncomfortable with the reception or level of knowledge possessed by a surgeon’s staff, don’t hesitate to follow your gut and go elsewhere.

Seeking out the best and most qualified surgeon can help immensely in preventing complications before, during and after your laminectomy. Clear communication is perhaps the most important factor; if you fully understand what you’re going into, you can make informed decisions and feel confident you’ve made the right choice.

Finding the right surgeon for your laminectomy shouldn’t be a painful experience. You have the right to “shop around” — second (and third and fourth!) opinions may not always be convenient, but they can prove invaluable — to ensure a top-quality surgery and uneventful recovery.
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