General or regional anesthesia may be used for lumbar laminectomy. To determine whether one method is superior, 122 patients were randomly assigned to receive either a standard general anesthetic (GA) or spinal anesthesia (SA) supplemented with intravenous (IV) propofol sedation. Data from the intraoperative period through hospital discharge were collected and compared. Demographically, both groups were similar. Total anesthesia (131.0 +/- 4.3 vs 106.6 +/- 3.2 min) and surgical times (81.5 +/- 3.6 vs 67.1 +/- 2.8 min) were longer in the GA group. Intraoperative hemodynamics were similar between groups except that the incidence of increased blood pressure was more frequent with GA (26.2% vs 3.3%). Blood loss was less during SA (133 +/- 18 mL vs 221 +/- 32 mL). Postanesthesia care unit (PACU) heart rates and mean arterial pressures were higher in the GA group. Peak pain scores in the PACU were higher after GA compared with SA (58 +/- 4 vs 22 +/- 3) as were the number of patients who required analgesics. Severe nausea was more common in the GA group both in the PACU and during the 24 h after surgery. Analgesic requirements after discharge from the PACU, urinary retention, and days in the hospital did not differ between groups. This study suggests that SA may be superior to GA both intraoperatively and postoperatively for lumbar spine procedures lasting less than 2 h.