The neural foramen is an opening where nerve roots exit the spine and travel throughout the body. It creates a protective passageway for nerves that carry signals between the spinal cord and the rest of the body. A cervical foraminotomy is a surgical procedure that is done to enlarge that passageway.
Traditional, open spine surgery involves cutting or stripping the muscles from the spine. Today, a cervical foraminotomy may be performed using a minimally invasive procedure that allows your spine surgeon to separate the fibers of the muscles surrounding the spine rather than cutting and stripping the muscles away from the spine.
Why is it done?
A pinched nerve in the neck can cause neck pain, stiffness, and pain radiating into the shoulder, arm, and hand, as well as numbness, tingling and/or weakness in the arm and hand.
Herniated discs, bone spurs and thickened ligaments or joints can all cause narrowing of the neural foramen and cause painful symptoms. Patients who do not improve with conservative treatment may be candidates for surgery.
How is it done?
Surgery is performed with a patient lying on his stomach.
A small incision is made on the symptomatic side of the neck. Next, the muscles are gradually dilated and a tubular retractor is placed to give the surgeon access to the spine.
Bone or disc material and/or thickened ligaments are then removed to decompress and relieve pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves.
The tubular retractor is removed, allowing the dilated muscles to come back together.
The incision is closed, and in most instances results in only a small scar.
This minimally invasive procedure typically allows many patients to be discharged the same day of surgery; however, some patients will require a longer hospital stay. Most patients will notice immediate improvement of some or all of their symptoms; however, other symptoms may improve more gradually.
A positive attitude, reasonable expectations and compliance with your doctor’s post-surgery instructions all may contribute to a satisfactory outcome. Many patients are able to return to their regular activities within several weeks.