Foraminotomy

Definition

Foraminotomy is surgery that widens the opening in your back where nerve roots leave your spinal canal. You may have a narrowing of the nerve opening (foraminal stenosis).

Alternative Names

Intervertebral foramina; Spine surgery - foraminotomy

Description

Foraminotomy takes pressure off of a nerve in your spinal column. This allows the spine to move more easily. Foraminotomy can be performed on any level of the spine.

You will be asleep and feel no pain (general anesthesia).

During surgery:

Why the Procedure Is Performed

A bundle of nerves (nerve root) leaves your spinal cord through openings in your spinal column. These openings are called the neural foramena. When the openings for the nerve root become narrow, it can put pressure on your nerve. This condition is called foraminal spinal stenosis.

This surgery may be considered if you have severe symptoms that interfere with your daily life. Symptoms include:

You will have an MRI to make sure foraminal stenosis is causing your symptoms.

You and your doctor can decide when you need to have surgery. Foraminal stenosis symptoms often become worse over time, but this may happen slowly.

Risks

Risks of any anesthesia are:

Risks of forminotomy are:

Before the Procedure

Tell your doctor or nurse what medicines you are taking. This includes medicines, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the days before the surgery:

On the day of the surgery:

After the Procedure

You will likely wear a soft neck collar afterward if the surgery was on your neck. Most people are able to get out of bed and sit up within 2 hours after surgery. You will need to move your neck carefully.

You should be able to leave the hospital the day after the surgery. You should be able to drive within a week or two and resume light work after 4 weeks.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Foraminotomy for spinal foraminal stenosis will often provide full or some relief of symptoms.

Future spine problems are possible for all patients after spine surgery. If you had foraminotomy and spinal fusion, the spinal column above and below the fusion could have problems in the future. If you needed more than one kind of precedure in addition to foraminotomy (such as laminotomy, laminectomy, or spinal fusion), you may have more of a chance of future problems.

References

Curlee PM. Other disorders of the spine. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2007:chap 41.

Park AL. Lower back pain and disorders: intervertebral discs. In: Canale ST, Beatty JH, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2007:chap 39.

Weinstein JN, Tosteson TD, Lurie JD, et al. Surgical versus nonoperative treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis four-year results of the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial. Spine. 2010;35(14):1329-38.


Review Date: 11/15/2012
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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