Overview of facetectomy and foraminotomy procedures for the treatment of facet disease

If you are suffering from the pain and symptoms of facet disease and you have exhausted conservative treatment options without finding relief for a good quality of life, you and your doctor may be considering surgery to treat your condition.

Facet disease is a degenerative spine condition that occurs when the cartilage in the facet joints wears down and the spine develops bone spurs and other spinal growths and weaknesses. The facet joints give mobility to the vertebrae of the spine, allowing them to bend and twist smoothly. As the cartilage in the facet joints deteriorates from years of wear and tear, the vertebrae no longer have the same range of motion and may begin to impact one another with each bending and twisting motion. As this happens, growths such as bone spurs may develop and impact a nerve root in the spinal canal, resulting in debilitating and chronic pain.

Surgical procedures aim to reduce the pain and symptoms caused by facet disease by removing a portion of the bone spur or damaged joint that is impacting the nerve root and causing symptoms. Two specific procedures often recommended for facet disease are called facetectomy and foraminotomy. If you are exploring your surgical options and have been recommended for either one of these procedures, the following guide can help you make the decision to undergo surgery on the most confident basis possible.

What do facetectomy and a foraminotomy procedures involve?

While the goals of both the facetectomy and foraminotomy are similar, the execution of the procedures is different. Before you determine the best treatment option for your facet disease, you should research the potential benefits and risks of all available treatment options.

  • Facetectomy. A facetectomy is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the vertebral joint — either in whole or in part — should inflammation from the joint cause nerve compression. This operation is used to prevent a degenerated, or arthritic, joint from irritating a nerve. Stabilization surgery is sometimes required if removing the joint puts the overall integrity of the spine in jeopardy.
  • Foraminotomy. A foraminotomy is a procedure used to widen one of the foramina in the spine. Foramina are openings where nerve roots normally exit the spinal canal, but if they become narrowed, painful nerve compression can occur. During a foraminotomy, the spinal surgeon will carefully remove the sources of the foraminal stenosis, such as part of a calcified ligament, bone spurs or herniated disc material.

Minimally invasive spine surgery to treat facet disease

For many patients with facet disease, conservative, nonsurgical treatments will effectively reduce the pain and symptoms related to this spine condition. However, if you have exhausted conservative treatment options after attempting them for weeks or months, your doctor may recommend you explore spine surgery to treat your facet disease.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves in the spine without the highly invasive techniques used in traditional open spine surgery. Our outpatient procedures use muscle-sparing techniques that allow for a less than 1-inch incision. The result is a shorter recovery time^ and less risk of complication compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.

If you’d like to learn more, contact our dedicated and caring team today. We are pleased to offer a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.