Cervical foraminotomy is an operation
to enlarge the space where a spinal nerve root exits
the cervical spinal canal to relieve the symptoms of
a "pinched nerve."
Compression of the cervical nerve roots 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. Protruding or ruptured
discs, bone spurs, and thickened ligaments or joints
can all cause narrowing of the space where the nerve
exits the spinal canal and cause the above symptoms.
Patients who do not improve with conservative treatment
may be candidates for the operation.
Some pain at the operative site is expected, but generally
resolves over time and can be controlled with oral pain
medicines. Some patients can be discharged the same
day of surgery, but most patients will require 24-48
hours in the hospital. Most patients will notice immediate
improvement in some or all of their symptoms, however
some symptoms may improve only gradually. A positive
attitude, reasonable expectations, and compliance with
the doctor's recommendations all contribute to a satisfactory
outcome. A cervical collar (brace) is rarely necessary.
Most patients can return to their regular activities
within several weeks.
A small incision is made in the middle of the neck after
localising the area of interest with an x-ray.
The muscles on the side of the spine involved are dissected
and a retractor is placed. (Sometimes an endoscope and
tubular retractor or microscope are used). Bone from
the posterior arch of the spine and joint over the nerve
are removed using special cutting instruments and/or
a drill. Thickened ligament, bone spurs and/or bulging
discs are removed to decompress the exiting nerve, which
is checked with a probe to insure adequate space around
the nerve root.
The muscles and tissues are closed in layers with absorbable
sutures. The skin may be closed with absorbable sutures
and steri-strips, or surgical staples, which are removed
when the wound is well healed.
here to download a Patient Information Sheet on Foraminotomy
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