Decompression is a surgical procedure performed to relieve pressure and alleviate pain caused by the impingement of bone and/or disc material on the spinal cord or nerves. Today, this can be done using minimally invasive spine surgery.

A spinal decompression is sometimes performed when an intervertebral disc ruptures or herniates in the spine and puts pressure on neural tissue, such as the spinal cord, nerves and/or nerve roots. This may cause pain and other symptoms in the neck, arms and legs, including numbness or muscle weakness. Other causes of neural impingement include spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or in some rare cases a spinal tumor.

Spinal surgeons perform a variety of procedures to achieve decompression. When determining the optimal surgical procedure, a surgeon will consider patient pathology (the structural and functional changes that led to the patient's neurological dysfunction), the level or levels of the spine affected, the patient's medical history and his or her surgical experience and training.

Learn more about the following types of decompression procedures:

spinal decompression with tubular retractor Today, spinal decompression can be performed through a minimally invasive procedure that allows your spine surgeon to dilate the muscles surrounding your spine rather than stripping the muscles away from the spine.

A minimally invasive spinal decompression procedure such as a discectomy, laminectomy or cervical foraminotomy typically leaves patient with only a small scar when compared to traditional, open spinal surgery. Surgical discomfort often may be relieved with medication, and some patients undergoing a minimally invasive decompression are able to go home the day after surgery.

To determine whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery, talk to your doctor. To find a spine surgeon who performs minimally invasive spine surgery, visit our Find A Doctor locator.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications, and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your physician's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

The materials on this Web site are for your general educational information only. Information you read on this Web site cannot replace the relationship that you have with your health care professional. We do not practice medicine or provide medical services or advice as a part of this Web site. You should always talk to your health care professional for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Published: September 14, 2007
  • Updated: April 17, 2008