A foraminotomy is a minimally invasive procedure to relieve excess pressure of a nerve located in the spinal column. It helps reduce pain resulting from the pressure on the nerve and can be performed on any part of the spine. A bundle of nerves exit your spine through an opening called “neural foramen” and when those openings become narrow, it will put pressure on the nerves.
A foraminotomy is performed by a board certified spine surgeon to remove disc fragments, overgrown ligaments and bone spurs from the neural foramen. This increases the space around the neural foramen and relieves the compression of the spinal nerves.
Spinal nerves branch out to form part of the peripheral nervous system, which can cause symptoms to radiate to other parts of the body. A foraminotomy is meant to treat the condition at its core to provide lasting relief.
The procedure is performed with the patient lying in a face down position and a small incision is made over the affected area of the spine.
Microsurgical instruments are used to remove the disc fragments, overgrown ligaments and bone spurs from the neural foramen. This increases the space around the neural foramen and relieves the compression of the spinal nerves. Once completed, muscles and the soft tissue are placed in their normal position and the incision will be closed.
With this surgery from Orlando Orthopaedic Center, patients typically go home the same day with full recovery lasting between two and three months.
Related symptoms include:
- Pain that may be felt in the thigh, calf, lower back, shoulder, arms or hands
- Pain when doing certain activities or moving your body a certain way
- Numbness, tingling and muscle weakness
Who is a Candidate for a Foraminotomy?
Candidates for a foraminotomy typically have foraminal stenosis or may be experience varying symptoms and may have diverse spinal conditions. Candidates should have experienced back pain for at least three months and experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Acute or chronic pain in the neck or back is dull, deep, constant, shooting, throbbing, sharp, or radiating to the extremities
- Pain radiating from the lower back to the buttocks, legs, calves, feet, and/or toes
- Pain radiating from the neck to the shoulders, arms, hands, and/or fingers
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling sensation felt in the muscles and/or the extremities
- Limited motor functions
- Difficulty performing daily activities or partaking in physical activity
- Difficulty standing, walking, or sitting for varying periods of time
- Past failed attempts at relieving pain with conservative treatment
Patients should consider all risks and benefits of spine surgery before making their decision. A spine surgeon will discuss all available options and treatments available to provide relief.
What to Expect Following a Foraminotomy
If the foraminotomy was in the cervical (neck) region, the patient will probably be required to wear a neck collar to limit head and neck movement. Physical therapy may be recommended for the first several weeks after surgery.
Most patients experience a significant reduction in the leg pain not long after completion of the procedure. Pain at the incision site and the spasms of the back muscle are common but resolve within a week or two following surgery. Full recovery time is typically between two and three months.
It is imperative patients complete physical therapy as designated by their spine surgeon to help ensure the best possible outcome from the foraminotomy.
Results of a Foraminotomy
A foraminotomy procedure is successful in relieving back pain in a majority of patients. As a general rule of thumb, a foraminotomy can benefit those with acute or severe back pain.