A foraminotomy is surgical procedure to relieve the symptoms of nerve root compression caused by the presence of bone, disc, scar tissue, or excessive ligament development that have diminished the size of an intervertebral foramen where a nerve root exits the spinal canal.
The intervertebral foramina are the openings located on the left and right sides of the spinal column at the point where two vertebrae meet. Their size is established by the height of the disc sandwiched between the adjacent vertebrae. The intervertebral foramina function as passageways for the nerve roots as they exit the spinal cord and form the peripheral nervous system.
When the size of an intervertebral foramen is compromised, symptoms of nerve compression will develop. This can produce pain, numbness, tingling sensations and/or muscle weakness along the affected nerves. Depending on the location of the nerve root compression, symptoms may be felt in the back or neck and radiate out through the extremities.
As with other surgical procedure for the spine, a foraminotomy may be recommended when conservative non-surgical therapies have failed to provide relief. The procedure may be indicated in cases of foraminal stenosis, herniated disc, bulging disc, pinched nerve, bone spurs, arthritis of the spine, or sciatica. A foraminotomy is designed to take the pressure off the nerve and allow the spine to move more freely and comfortably. During a foraminotomy the surgeon will remove bone and tissue in the intervertebral foramen that is compressing the nerve. A foraminotomy can be performed at any level of the spine. A foraminotomy may be done alone or combined with other surgical procedures to decompress nerves and provide relief of symptoms.