Laminectomy and discectomy are surgical procedures that are often used to relieve spinal stenosis. Some people experience a great deal of relief following these procedures, while others have mixed results and remain unable to work.
How laminectomy and discectomy work. These spinal procedures generally work by enlarging the spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord caused by a herniated or bulging disc. Often the surgical procedures are used together, as the laminectomy creates an access point to the intervertebral disc. Once the access point has been created, a discectomy is performed to reshape or remove the damaged spinal disc. A laminectomy can also be used to remove bone spurs.
Recovery from laminectomy and discectomy. The prognosis for an individual who has a discectomy, with or without the laminectomy, is usually good with proper care and treatment, but these procedures don't always produce the desired result. Sometimes discectomy will fail to relieve the patient's symptoms, and in rare cases, can even cause permanent damage to the spinal nerve or recurrent disc herniation. This is called "post-discectomy syndrome" (a type of "failed back surgery syndrome," or FBSS). If an individual has persistent pain following a laminectomy, either at the site of the surgery or in a leg, it's called "post-laminectomy" syndrome.
Working following a laminectomy and discectomy. In some of these cases, an individual will remain unable, or become unable, to work for a long period of time following laminectomy and/or discectomy. Social Security disability benefits may be available in these circumstances, depending on the severity of the patient's symptoms and the likelihood that the impairment will improve. Social Security evaluates complications from all back surgeries in the same way; for more information, see our article on getting disability benefits following back surgery or spinal fusion.