Cervical Laminectomy and Laminoforaminotomy

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Chapter 44 Cervical Laminectomy and Laminoforaminotomy

General Principles

Cervical spondylosis, disc herniation, and allied pathologies are a common cause of neurologic compression. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy is the most common cause of spinal cord dysfunction in adults.1

In spite of more than 40 years of evaluation of various techniques, there is no class I or class II evidence to strongly support one procedure over another, be it anterior or posterior, in the overall group of patients.2 The natural history of the compressive myelopathies varies, eroding the efficacy of procedural long-term outcomes.1 The origin of cervical spondylotic myelopathy appears to originate from two principle forces on the spinal cord and associated structures:

In essence, the compressed spinal cord is stretched, or distracted, through a compromised canal, leading to damage in the spinal cord. Interestingly, the damage is often in the lateral cord region in early to moderate cases of myelopathy.4 It has long been felt that, given the frequent ventral location of the compressive spur, the procedure must be directed to that location. It appears that it is the combination of compressive and dynamic motion of the spinal cord that leads to compromised function. In light of the static (compressive) and dynamic forces involved in the genesis of myelopathy, all the ventral and dorsal surgical options that address either one, or both, of the involved factors have a role.4,5

Given the preceding two underlying factors (compression and motion) in the genesis of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM), a wide variety of procedures are available to address the problem. As a primary goal, decompression should be achieved (i.e., the spinal canal volume enlarged). This can be accomplished with anterior discectomy-spurectomy and fusion, anterior corpectomy and fusion, cervical laminectomy, cervical laminoplasty, and cervical laminectomy and fusion.26 Each procedure has its attendant downside in the form of various complications. All have been shown to be effective and in the overall population of CSM patients, but no one procedure has clearly outclassed the other options.2 Cervical laminectomy for decompression of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots has been shown to be effective in the treatment of CSM.2,7 It addresses the compressive forces in CSM, but does not reduce the dynamic forces. Nevertheless, many patients do well with this option, and in appropriately selected patients the procedure is a safe, relatively simple, and effective option. A number of advantages can be ascribed to cervical laminectomy/decompression:

As with all surgical options in the treatment of CSM, there are a number of potential limitations:

Patient Selection

Cervical laminectomy addresses the compressive aspects of CSM and associated disorders, but not the dynamic forces.2,5,7 If concerns arise regarding frank stability, or it is felt that the dynamic aspects must be addressed, simultaneous dorsal instrumentation and fusion can be utilized in addition to simple decompression. The decision to select one posterior option or another, and even the consideration of anterior options, is often a combination of science and surgeon preference and experience.2,5,7 Over the years, and over the course of 400 cases, I have used the following general guidelines:

A cervical laminectomy is considered in the following circumstances:


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