Procedure: Foraminotomy


What is a Foraminotomy?

Foraminotomy is a surgical procedure used to relieve pressure on nerves that are being compressed by the intervertebral foramina (openings in the bones of the vertebrae of the spine that pass nerve bundles to the body from the spinal cord). A" foramen" is the opening around the nerve root, and "otomy" refers to the medical procedure for enlarging the opening.

A foraminotomy is performed to relieve the symptoms of nerve root compression in cases where the foramen is being compressed by bone, disc, scar tissue, or excessive ligament development which results in a pinched nerve.

The procedure is often performed as a minimally invasive procedure in which an incision is made in the back of the neck, the muscle peeled away to reveal the bone underneath, and a small hole cut into the vertebra itself. Through this hole, using an arthroscope, the foramen can be visualized, and the impinging bone or disk material removed.

Why is the procedure performed?

Foraminal StenosisCompression of the cervical nerve roots that exit the vertebrae through the foramina (foraminal stenosis) can cause the following symptoms:

  • neck pain
  • stiffness
  • pain radiating into the shoulder, arm, and hand
  • numbness
  • tingling and/or weakness in the arm and hand

Protruding or ruptured discs, bone spurs, and thickened ligaments or joints can all cause narrowing of the space where the nerve exits the spinal canal and cause the above symptoms. The degenerative process can also cause bone spurs to develop and point into the foramen, causing further irritation. In a foraminotomy, the surgeon removes the tissues around the edges of the foramen, essentially widening the opening in order to take pressure off the nerve root. Patients who do not improve with conservative treatment may be candidates for the procedure.


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