What is Spinal Stenosis Surgery and When Should I Undergo a Spinal Stenosis Operation

Published: Jun 8, 2011
Category: Spinal Stenosis

Surgery for Spinal Stenosis

The big question for most people is when do I need a spinal stenosis operation?  Fortunately most people have great results through conservative treatments, but they may take time; usually 6-8 weeks.  The problem is that a small percentage of people who suffer from spinal stenosis will not see improvement with treatments and may require surgery for spinal stenosis.

It is important to note as well, when finding treatment for spinal stenosis surgery should always be considered a final solution unless spinal stenosis surgery is required because of a medical emergency.  If you doctor is recommending a spinal stenosis operation and you are not an emergency case, you should consider seeking out a second opinion.

Forms of Spinal Stenosis surgery

Listed below are a few different forms of surgery that may be performed as a spinal stenosis operation.


During a laminectomy the entire lamina and any tissue that has thickened is removed to create additional room in the spinal canal to relieve the compression.  This spinal stenosis operation is considered to be a traditional open back surgery and is quite invasive.  Spinal fusion surgery for spinal stenosis may be performed alongside this procedure to give the spine more stability.


A laminotomy is very similar to a laminectomy with the difference being that only a small portion of the lamina is removed during this procedure. Through this opening any thickened tissue, bone spurs, or disc herniations can be removed or repaired.  A laminotomy can either be performed as a traditional open back spinal stenosis surgery, or with an endoscope making it less invasive.  The only determining factor would be the surgeons skill level.

Spinal Fusion

A spinal fusion is performed to fuse two or more of the spinal vertebrae together.  By fusing the vertebrae together an unstable segment in the spine will once again become stable.  As more vertebrae are fused together, range of motion in the spine is reduced; this is why most surgeons will not fuse more than 3 vertebras at a time. Fusion is most often attained through a bone graft and the use of other instruments such as rods, cages, and screws.

Xlif Spinal Fusion

XLIF stands for extreme lateral interbody fusion and is a gentle less invasive alternative to traditional spinal fusion surgery for spinal stenosis.  XLIF is a minimally invasive fusion method that lets the surgeon approach the spine from a side angle (lateral) rather than the front or back. By not traversing through the abdomen or cutting through muscle in the back, an Xlif spinal stenosis operation allows for a much less painful surgery with fewer traumas to the body.  Patient recovery times are literally cut in half because of this; what would take months for traditional surgery only takes weeks with XLIF.