Foraminotomy is a type of surgery intended to relieve symptoms caused by compression of the nerve roots. Nerve roots originate from the spinal cord and travel out of the spinal canal through the foramina, which are openings in the vertebrae. Unfortunately, foraminal passageways can become narrowed and clogged by bone, tissue, or disc fragments as a result of a number of back or neck conditions, including spinal arthritis, bulging discs, herniated discs, pinched nerves, bone spurs, foraminal stenosis, and others. The aim of foraminotomy, therefore, is to free up space by removing any obstructions in the affected foramen.
It should be noted that there are at least two different surgical approaches for opening up the foramina – the forminotomy and the foraminectomy. While the goal of a foraminotomy is to remove as little tissue as possible and thus protect the structural strength of the spine, a foraminectomy involves a large amount of bone and tissue removal. In either case, before closing the incision surgeons may deem it necessary to perform a spinal fusion to increase stability in the spinal column.
An obstructed nerve passing through a narrowed foramen can lead to symptoms of varying degrees of intensity felt at different locations all over the body. The location of the compressed nerve, as well as the amount of material causing the compression, will determine the symptoms. In general, a compressed nerve in the lumbar spine will have symptoms that can be felt in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and sometimes feet. Conversely, a compressed nerve in the cervical region, or upper spine, may cause symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms, or hands.
Laser Spine Institute (LSI) performs outpatient foraminotomy surgeries through an endoscopic approach. Like all of our procedures, our foraminotomy is minimally invasive, requiring only local anesthesia and deep IV sedation. During the procedure, a surgeon inserts a small tube through the skin and gradually adds tubes of increasing size until a final tube 18 millimeters in diameter is inserted. The surgeon operates through this tube, using tiny tools, a laser, irrigation equipment, and an endoscope for magnification.
This minimally invasive technique drastically reduces the pain, incision length, and recovery time associated with traditional open back surgical approaches to forminotomy and foraminectomy. At LSI, patients often feel pain relief within the same day of surgery. If you are experiencing severe and limiting back or neck pain and your doctor believes you would be a good candidate for back surgery, consider a gentle endoscopic procedure from Laser Spine Institute. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and even review your MRI or CT scan, free of charge. To learn more, contact us today.