Function of the lamina

A lamina is a bony structure, existing in pairs, on each of the spinal vertebrae, which provides a roof for the spinal canal and protects the back of the spinal cord. The spine is constructed in a way to both protect the spinal cord as well as support the upper body, while still allowing for movement. These two roles make the spine vulnerable to age-related degeneration and injury, which can cause debilitating symptoms.

In its role protecting the spinal cord, a lamina can also be a source of painful nerve compression if the spinal canal becomes narrowed due to a degenerative condition. In the following article, you will learn about the anatomy of the spine and the range of treatment options related to the lamina, which can help you and your doctor reach the best treatment decision for you.

The lamina and spinal canal anatomy

Each spinal vertebra has two laminae, which are part of the arch that extends off the back of the main body. This arch, in addition to containing the joints connecting the vertebrae, forms the canal, which protects the spinal cord. Here are the other individual components that make up a vertebra:

  • An oval-shaped vertebral body on the front side of the spinal column, facing out toward the chest
  • Two transverse processes and two pedicles which extend off the left and right of each vertebral body
  • Superior and inferior articular processes that link vertebrae together
  • The spinous process, which is the knob-shaped bone you can feel when you run your hand along your spinal column

Treatment for spine conditions related to the lamina

Degenerative spine conditions can cause narrowing in the spinal column, placing pressure on sensitive nerve roots and the spinal cord. This can result in symptoms including pain, limited mobility, numbness and weakness. The narrowing of the spinal column is a condition known as spinal stenosis. Factors that can contribute to spinal stenosis include:

  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Bulging discs
  • Herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bone spurs

While a course of conservative treatment options can provide relief for these conditions in many cases, you may be a candidate for surgery if there is no improvement after weeks or months of treatment. In an attempt to open up space in the spinal column, surgeons may recommend a traditional open spine procedure called a laminectomy, which is the removal of the lamina on one or more vertebrae. The removal of the lamina is designed to relieve pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord. It is important to remember, however, that a laminectomy can mean an invasive surgery involving hospitalization of around two to five days, a long incision where the muscles are cut, a high risk of infection of up to 19 percent and a complication rate of 16.4 percent.

However, there are alternatives available. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive outpatient procedures, including a laminotomy, to relieve pressure on spinal nerves. Unlike a laminectomy, a laminotomy is the removal of part of the lamina. The laminotomy procedures at Laser Spine Institute are performed through a less than 1-inch incision that is muscle-sparing and involves as little disruption to the lamina and other tissue as possible to relieve your symptoms. Compared to a laminectomy, our outpatient procedures only have a complication rate of 3 percent and an infection rate of 0.49 percent.^

Contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost MRI review* to learn if our laminotomy procedure would be effective in relieving your chronic neck or back pain.