Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Upper Spine FAQ

Question:

I had a lumbar laminectomy for back and leg pain. A week after the operation my symptoms were much worse with the added problem of bladder problems. After more testing, it looks like the problem is really higher up in the thoracic spine. I've been told the first operation was necessary to show the problem more clearly. Is this just some specialist covering for a mistake?

Answer:

I had a lumbar laminectomy for back and leg pain. A week after the operation my symptoms were much worse with the added problem of bladder problems. After more testing, it looks like the problem is really higher up in the thoracic spine. I've been told the first operation was necessary to show the problem more clearly. Is this just some specialist covering for a mistake?

Mistakes do happen in the medical world. It's complex and our ability to find things is somewhat limited despite modern day technology.

In the case of the spine, what you've been told may very well be true. Researchers have put this theory out, but they can't prove it yet. They say a laminectomy can alter the pressure and flow of the cerebrospinal fluid. This liquid cushions and protects the spinal cord and the brain.

Symptoms can be masked or hidden for a long time. It's not until a change occurs somewhere else along the spine that the patient's symptoms increase enough to identify them. A recent report from Japan points out that a careful exam along with imaging studies is needed when the patient's symptoms don't match the testing results. This may be the only way to find this type of problem early before permanent damage occurs.

Akhhko Takeuchi, MD, et al. Thoracic Paraplegia Due to Missed Thoracic Compressive Lesions after Lumbar Spinal Decompression Surgery. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. January 2004. Vol. 100. No. 1. Pp. 71-74.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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