Back injuries are fairly common workplace injuries. Although most heal without invasive procedures, some are severe enough to require surgery. A laminectomy is one type of procedure performed, often stemming from spinal stenosis (narrowing spinal canal) that may be related to a herniated disk.
Overview of a Laminectomy
A laminectomy removes a part of the vertebrae (the lamina) to relieve the pressure placed on the nerves or spinal cord by a herniated disk or other projection that’s narrowing the spinal canal. Although this can be done on any part of the spine, it’s more often performed on the neck and lower back.
Surgery is usually a last resort. It’s typically done when the patient’s condition fails to improve with noninvasive treatment, such as:
- injections; or
- physical therapy.
One or more of these noninvasive treatments can be skipped and treatment escalated if the pain gets progressively worse and significantly interferes with ability to function at work or perform daily tasks.
Some of the severe symptoms that could necessitate a laminectomy include:
- severe or consistent pain;
- weakness or numbness in the legs;
- bladder/bowel dysfunction; and
- unsteadiness when walking.
Sometimes a spinal fusion is also performed to ensure the spinal column is stable afterward. If there is a herniated disk, the surgeon may remove the damaged disc as well.
Recovery and Prognosis for an Injured Worker Who Undergoes a Laminectomy
Recovery will depend on several factors, one of which is any complication that may have occurred during the procedure. The type of surgery and extent of damage will also factor into recovery.
Those who also required a spinal fusion and/or removal of a herniated disk may take longer to recover. The ability to return to one’s job will depend on the type of work performed. For instance, those who do more sitting will likely return sooner than someone who does lifting.
In general, recovery can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. As far as prognosis, many experience significant improvement. But unfortunately, not everyone who undergoes a laminectomy will experience relief from symptoms. For some the reprieve from pain is only partial or nonexistent. For others, the pain returns later which may necessitate a second surgery.
Workers’ Comp for Injured Workers Who Undergo a Laminectomy
As long as the reason for undergoing the surgery was a work-related injury, workers’ compensation will cover the medical expenses. For instance, a worker who suffered a herniated disk after falling off a ladder or getting struck by a heavy object may require laminectomy that’s covered by workers’ comp.
Disability benefits depend on the specifics of the injury and time away from work. Workers who miss more than seven days of work may qualify for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. If a worker takes a lower-paying job temporarily while recovering, temporary partial disability (TPD) might be available.
If permanently and partially disabled, the worker will receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. The back is an industrial disability, so the number of weeks for which the worker receives PPD is dependent on impairment rating.
Besides impairment rating, PPD benefits rely on other factors like:
- work experience;
- present medical condition;
- functional impairment; and
- earning capacity.
Do you need legal help securing workers’ compensation?
When a back injury is severe, there can be challenges obtaining fair workers’ comp benefits. There may be a dispute concerning the impairment rating. If these or any other problems arise, consult with an attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines: call (888) 435-9886. Also see our free guide to help workers pursuing a workers’ comp claim.