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What is a Foraminectomy?

A foraminectomy is a procedure that increases the size of the foraminal canal and relieves pinched nerve roots by removing excess bone and vertebral disk material. It is often combined another procedure, which could include a laminectomy, discectomy, or spinal fusion to improve spinal strength and stability. A foraminectomy can relieve pressure from foraminal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylosis,herniated disc, or pinched nerves.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences

The UTHealth Houston Neurosciences Spine Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from radiculopathy, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, peripheral nerve disorders, spinal cord injury, or other trauma benefit from our collaborative expertise in managing spine disorders.

Our multidisciplinary teams of specialists share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes. We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

Anatomy of the neck and spine

The spine is divided into the following regions:

  • The cervical region (vertebrae C1-C7) encompasses the first seven vertebrae under the skull. Their main function is to support the weight of the head, which averages 10 pounds. The cervical vertebrae are more mobile than other areas, with the atlas and axis vertebra facilitating a wide range of motion in the neck. Openings in these vertebrae allow arteries to carry blood to the brain and permit the spinal cord to pass through. They are the thinnest and most delicate vertebrae.
  • The thoracic region (vertebrae T1-T12) is composed of 12 small bones in the upper chest. Thoracic vertebrae are the only ones that support the ribs. Muscle tension from poor posture, arthritis, and osteoporosis are common sources of pain in this region.
  • The lumbar region (vertebrae L1-L5) features vertebrae that are much larger to absorb the stress of lifting and carrying heavy objects. Injuries to the lumbar region can result in some loss of function in the hips, legs, and bladder control.
  • The sacral region (vertebrae S1-S5) includes a large bone at the bottom of the spine. The sacrum is triangular-shaped and consists of five fused bones that protect the pelvic organs.

Reasons for a Foraminectomy

Most neck pain does not require surgery. Your surgeon may recommend a foraminectomy if you have debilitating symptoms that affect your quality of life, even after trying more conservative treatments, such as medication or physical therapy.

Degenerative arthritis of the spine is one of the most common reasons a foraminectomy might be performed. Skeletal and congenital problems might also be the reason for the procedure.

What to expect during surgery and recovery

You may need an MRI or other imaging before the procedure. Prior to surgery, smokers will be urged to quit. Patients might be encouraged to eat a diet high in protein prior too surgery to aid with healing.

During the procedure, you will lie on your stomach as your surgeon makes a cut into your back or neck and exposes the affected vertebra. Your surgeon will use small tools to remove any blockages, such as bone spurs or bulging disks, to surgically widen your foramen. The surgeon will sometimes perform a laminectomy to remove part of the vertebra.

Patients are encouraged to begin walking in the hospital, and are usually discharged within one day, with instructions to increase the time they spend walking every day. It is normal for patients to experience pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, and even hips after surgery. Patients might also experience hoarseness or difficulty swallowing immediately after the procedure. Most patients recover within four to six weeks. Patients might experience some hoarseness or difficulty swallowing for a few days after surgery. Your spine surgeon will give you specific information related to your condition and lifestyle goals, as well as a detailed description of the surgery and instructions on how to make the best recovery.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

Contact Us

At UTHealth Houston Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.