Understanding The Spinal Foraminotomy Procedure

If nerve irritation is causing you spine pain and physical therapy or similar conservative care techniques aren’t solving the problem, a surgical operation may be in your future. There are a few different operations that your spine specialist can perform based on your specific issue, but one of the most common operations is what’s known as a foraminotomy procedure. Below, we take a closer look at the procedure and explain how it can help with a variety of spinal nerve issues.

What Does A Foraminotomy Procedure Treat?

As we touched on in the intro, a foraminotomy procedure is designed to treat a wide range of nerve issues, and it achieves this by decompressing the affected area. Oftentimes nerve pain is caused by a compressing spinal disc or narrowing spinal foraminal opening, and the foraminotomy procedure widens this area or decompresses the offending structure.

Common problems that a foraminotomy procedure can address include:

If you’re experiencing back pain, a tingling sensation, numbness or radiating discomfort, it’s a sign that a nerve issue may be at play. Reach out to a spine specialist in your area to get an official diagnosis and learn about your treatment options.

How A Foraminotomy Procedure Is Performed

A foraminotomy begins with the patient lying on their stomach and the surgeon making a small incision near the spine at the level off the offending compression. They will carefully navigate past or through muscle tissue in order to reach the compression site. Once the surgical site has been accessed, the surgeon will perform the decompression operation, which may involve removing bone spurs, debriding a herniated disc or removing any other blockages in the foraminal space. This will create more space through which the spinal nerves can travel.

Once the surgeon is satisfied that enough space has been created, they’ll remove their tools and return muscles to their original location. The incision site is then closed using absorbable sutures or a similar device, and the patient is discharged to a recovery room. The procedure can typically be performed on an outpatient basis, or you may stay a day or two in the hospital before you are discharged.

Risks of complications associated with a foraminotomy procedure are very low, but every procedure carries some bit of risk. Bleeding, infection or nerve injury are the most common complications, but the overall rate of complication is very low when performed by a skilled spinal surgeon.

After discharge, you’ll have a few activity restrictions while your surgical site heals. After a short while, you’ll likely be referred to a physical therapist who can help keep your rehabilitation on track and speed up your recovery. Recovery time ranges from 4-12 weeks depending on the specifics of your operation, and most patients experience great results once rehabilitation is complete.

For more information about a foraminotomy procedure, or to get to the bottom of your spinal discomfort, reach out to Dr. Chang and his experienced medical team today.

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