How to Define a Foraminotomy

We define foraminotomy in the most basic of terms by saying it is a procedure designed to relieve symptoms related to nerve compression that takes place within the openings where spinal nerve roots exit and enter the spinal column. Another way to say it is, a foraminotomy is used to decompress spinal nerve roots that are impinged by an anatomical abnormality within one of the intervertebral foramen. An intervertebral foramen is an opening that allows a spinal nerve root to exit the spinal column, and these openings are found in pairs (plural: foramina) on either side of the vertebrae.

What happens with a foraminotomy

In a healthy pair of foramina, the associated nerve roots have plenty of space to exist and carry signals to and from the body, spinal cord, and brain. However, if an anatomical abnormality such as a herniated disc, bulging disc, or bone spur restricts the space within a particular foramen, the nerve root could become compressed. Different surgeons may perform a foraminotomy through different approaches, and Laser Spine Institute has perfected an advanced, minimally invasive approach. During a foraminotomy at Laser Spine Institute, a highly skilled, specialized surgeon uses minimally invasive techniques to remove only the portion of the spinal anatomy necessary to decompress the nerve root. This minimally invasive procedure is contrasted with a highly invasive foraminectomy, which requires the complete removal of an affected foramen and often necessitates the insertion of stabilizing hardware and bone graft material to permanently immobilize the vertebral segment.

When is a foraminotomy recommended?

Surgery for conditions such as bone spurs or bulging discs that affect the foramina usually is only considered as the last resort. In most cases, symptoms such as neck or back pain can be managed using conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods such as exercise and stretching. However, if debilitating symptoms persist after several weeks or months, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the benefits of a minimally invasive foraminotomy. We are the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery.