After a Cervical Laminectomy
Most patients will require some kind of surgical collar, brace, or halo after their laminectomy in order to maintain the stability of the neck, head, and spine whilst healing commences. Unlike after a foraminotomy, the collar is most probably going to be a stiff cervical collar, and no heavy lifting, twisting, or bending should be attempted for several weeks after surgery. Most patients will be given explicit guidelines on activities that they can perform with time periods for resumption of these, such as driving, sexual activity, and other forms of exercise. Most physicians will recommend delaying physical activity until the first post-surgery check-up at least, which is usually scheduled for two weeks after surgery.
The surgical incision should be kept clean and dry, with any redness, swelling, increasing tenderness, or fluid leakage reported immediately in order to catch any potential infection or problem early. If a patient develops a fever this may indicate an infection and they should inform their physician straight away. Many patients are instructed to measure their temperature at the same time everyday (4pm or so) to monitor for any potentially problematic signs. It is usual for patients to experience some pain at the site of incision, and possibly spasms of the back of the neck on occasion. Keeping the neck away from draughts is likely to reduce these incidences, as is adhering to the surgeon’s given instructions regarding the use of a cervical collar. Avoiding driving for at least two weeks (possibly four weeks) is generally advised, as are long journeys as a passenger in a car. The patient should wear a cervical collar on every journey until instructed otherwise by the surgeon or physician. Men should take care not to tilt the head back whilst shaving, and all patients should avoid washing their hair in the sink, instead washing their hair in the shower and keeping the head as straight possible.
The numbness experienced in the hands pre-surgery is likely to continue for a time after surgery whilst the affected area of the spine heals. It can take six to eighteen months for a damaged nerve to heal, depending on the extent of the compression. Paraesthesia and neck pain may continue during this time. Recovery can be aided by resuming gentle walking and gradually increasing activity as advised by the physician. Avoid raising the arms above the head as this can put further strain on the cervical spine.
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Last Updated: 10/31/2010