What is Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy?

When something damages a disc in the spinal cord of a dog, fluid leaks out from the disc. This fluid can cause the surrounding nerves to be pinched or irritated, which is very painful for the animal. This issue can be caused by repetitive exercise, injuries, or tumor growth. Dogs suffering from a disc herniation often have difficulty walking or experience partial paralysis. Its presence can often be confirmed by the use of radiographs or an ultrasound. 

To treat a herniated disc, the first procedure to be tried is often ventral slot decompression, but this surgery can sometimes fail. In other instances, due to the area of the tumor or damage, ventral slot surgery is not possible. In these cases, a procedure called a “cervical dorsal laminectomy” will be performed. This surgery is more invasive than a ventral slot decompression, as the ligaments around the spinal cord must be incised.

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Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy Procedure in Dogs

Before surgery is suggested, a full neurological examination must be performed to create a basis point so that recovery can be assessed after treatment. Next, blood work will be run to determine if the dog is healthy enough to survive the use of general anesthesia. X-rays will be taken of the chest and spine to locate the exact disc that has been affected. Once all of these tests have been done, surgery can be booked.

To begin the operation, an IV and a catheter will be inserted. A tube will also be inserted through the dog's trachea (a process called endotracheal intubation). The dog's back will then be shaved and cleaned in preparation for incision. The skin and tissue will be cut down the center of the back. Gelpi retractors are used to hold the skin open throughout the surgery. The ligament must then be very carefully lifted, and both the lamina and the herniation can be excised. If a tumor is present, it too may be removed at this point. A small portion of fat from the surrounding area can be placed over the area of removal to promote healing. The muscles can then be sutured shut, followed by the skin. 

Efficacy of Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy in Dogs

A cervical dorsal laminectomy is a very effective way to treat disc herniation​ for dogs. If the herniation resulted from repetitive injury, the prognosis for the animal is very good, with the vast majority making a full recovery. If the damage to the disc was due to cancer or severe trauma, the prognosis will vary on the individual situation. Some very mild cases of disc herniation can be managed medically without surgical intervention.

Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy Recovery in Dogs

The dog will need to be closely monitored in the hours after surgery to ensure all vital functions resume properly. Hospitalization is generally required for up to three days after the operation. Pain medication will be administered upon the dog regaining consciousness and will continue with an oral prescription. Antibiotics will also be given to the dog to prevent a bacterial infection from developing in the incision site. 

Physiotherapy should be started upon discharge and practiced daily to help the dog increase movement during the healing process. A follow-up appointment will be needed two weeks after surgery to assess the results and to remove sutures. If a tumor was removed during the procedure, it will have been sent to a lab for examination. Once the results have returned, a treatment regime may be implemented.

Cost of Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy in Dogs

A cervical dorsal laminectomy is a fairly invasive procedure that requires ample testing before it can be completed. This makes the overall price range from $1,500 to $4,000. If an MRI is needed to locate small tumors, the price may be even more. This surgery is often suggested when a ventral slot decompression cannot be performed. If the herniation is severe enough, long-term management with medication alone may not be possible.

Dog Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy Considerations

As with all invasive surgeries, there are rare but serious risks that come with the use of general anesthesia. If the dog has already become paralyzed, the prognosis, even with a successful surgery is grave. In most cases, there will be some pain and swelling in the days after the operation. The procedure is not a simple one and it does take time to complete. Full recovery is also lengthy.

Cervical Dorsal Laminectomy Prevention in Dogs

To prevent the need for a cervical dorsal laminectomy, certain measures can be taken. Wobbler's Syndrome and many forms of cancer are genetic issues, so be sure to request your dog's family health history when purchasing the animal. Do not expose your dog to known cancer causing agents such as cigarette smoke and car exhaust. These toxins are damaging to humans also, so avoiding them will benefit you as well. To prevent herniation from happening from injury, be sure to keep your dog on leash at all times when on walks. If your dog begins to exhibit lameness, take it to see a veterinarian for examination immediately.