Corpectomy and laminectomy are two surgical options to treat neck and back pain. The procedures are similar, but a corpectomy is more complex and typically has a longer recovery timeline.

Corpectomy and laminectomy are surgical procedures that can help relieve pain, weakness, and numbness in your spine. Both procedures are done through a small incision in your neck or back, and both can treat conditions such as bone spurs and herniated discs.

But they have significant differences.

For instance, bone grafting isn’t part of a laminectomy, but a corpectomy always includes bone grafting to help stabilize your spine and keep nerve space open.

A less invasive spinal surgery known as a discectomy, which differs from both corpectomy and laminectomy, is more often used to treat herniated discs and bone spurs.

This article will explain more about how these procedures work and how they differ, including the varying recovery times after the surgeries.

A corpectomy is a type of surgery to remove bone spurs or herniated discs when they’re causing spinal pressure and pain. It’s an invasive procedure that is used to reopen nerve roots, giving you more stability and reducing symptoms such as pain, numbness, and weakness.

Often, bone spurs and herniated discs are the result of chronic spinal degeneration such as osteoarthritis. Sometimes, conditions such as spinal fractures, tumors, and infections also need to be treated with a corpectomy.

A laminectomy is a surgery that is done to relieve severe back and neck pain. It relieves pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots.

This pressure is usually caused by spinal stenosis, herniated discs, injury, or tumors. Typically, a laminectomy is used as a treatment for these conditions only when less invasive treatments have not worked.

The surgeries approach the spine from different directions, so they work differently to decompress your spinal cord and nerve roots.

There is another spinal surgery known as a microdiscectomy. It’s less invasive than a corpectomy, and it’s more often performed to address bone spurs and herniated discs. Like a corpectomy, it is performed from the front of the spine.

A large study published in 2015 found that microdiscectomy was successful for long-term treatment of a herniated disc in 84% of people who underwent the procedure.

But when a discectomy has not worked, a corpectomy or laminectomy may be necessary, depending on the condition being treated.

Your doctor can help you determine which type of surgery is best.

Corpectomy and laminectomy procedures start in the same way.

Depending on the location of the procedure, you may be sitting or lying on your side, stomach, or back. Your surgical team will give you anesthesia through an intravenous (IV) line. A surgeon will then make a small cut over the affected spinal bone (vertebra) and spread your muscles apart to allow access to your spine.

Once the surgeon starts to work on your spine, the differences between the two surgeries begin.

During a laminectomy, the surgeon will remove the lamina (the bone arch at the back of your vertebrae) and might also remove anything else that is pressing on your nerves, such as a protruding disc or bone spur.

If you’re also having spinal fusion, the surgeon will then join two or more of your vertebrae. Once this is complete, they will close the incision.

During a corpectomy, a surgeon will remove a vertebra or disc in your neck and any surrounding protruding bits, such as bone fragments, that are putting pressure on your spinal cord. They will then place a bone graft to keep your spine decompressed and will place titanium plates and screws along the graft for extra support.

Once the grafting is complete, they will close the incision.

The chart below offers a glimpse of these two complex surgical procedures and how they compare.

relieves neck and back painrelieves neck and back pain
relieves pressure on your spinal cord and nervesrelieves pressure on your spinal cord and nerves
removes lamina, bone spurs, growths, and discsremoves disc, bone spurs, growths, bone fragments, and areas in neck
can be done alongside spinal fusionincludes bone grafting to keep spinal space open
has a recovery time of 2–6 monthshas a recovery time of 4–6 weeks

Typically, corpectomy and laminectomy become options when other treatments, such as physical therapy and medications, have not helped reduce your pain.

Surgery can also be an option if your symptoms are getting worse, especially if your doctor is concerned that a bone spur or herniated disc is putting pressure on your spine.

The time each surgery will take depends on a variety of factors.

For instance, a laminectomy can sometimes be part of a more complex surgery that includes spinal fusion. This can add time to your procedure.

As a general rule, both a laminectomy and a corpectomy take 1–3 hours.

All medical procedures have possible risks.

Here is a comparison of side effects you might experience after each procedure.

Possible risksCorpectomyLaminectomy
continued painxx
spinal cord injuryxx
nerve root injuryxx
graft dislodgmentx
tracheal injuryx
blood clotsxx (in legs or lungs)

Recovery time can also vary depending on the complexity of your procedure.

However, recovery from a corpectomy typically takes longer than recovery from a laminectomy.

You’ll usually stay in the hospital for a day or two after a laminectomy and for about 3 days after a corpectomy.

Physical therapy will be part of your recovery no matter which type of surgery you have. If you have a simple laminectomy, you might be able to return to work in a few weeks. If you have fusion along with your laminectomy, you might need a longer recovery period.

Some people who have corpectomies spend part of their recovery time in short-term rehabilitation facilities where they can get physical therapy, occupational therapy, and assistance with daily tasks. Other people can recover at home.

If your corpectomy procedure was performed in your neck, you might wear a neck brace for several weeks to stabilize your neck as you recover. It typically takes about 6 months to return all activities after a corpectomy.

Laminectomy and corpectomy are two types of surgery that are used to help relieve neck and back pain. They are options to treat bone spurs, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spinal tumors, spinal injuries, and other conditions that put pressure‌ on the spinal cord and spinal nerves.

Both procedures involve removing bone pieces and might also involve removing bone spurs and discs. A corpectomy also includes bone grafting to keep the newly created spinal space open.

Because a corpectomy is more complex, it typically has a lengthy recovery time of about 6 months, whereas it’s sometimes possible to return to work just a few weeks after a laminectomy.