What is a Lumbar Foraminotomy?

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 31, 2016

lumbar foraminotomy surgery

A lumbar foraminotomy is a surgical procedure performed to increase the area or space around one or more of the neural foramina of the lumbar region. The goal of the procedure is to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves in the area. A person may need a lumbar foraminotomy operation for a number of reasons, but they all have to do with the narrowing of the spinal canal. Today, we take a closer look at the procedure.

Do I Need a Lumbar Foraminotomy?

As we mentioned above, any condition that results in the narrowing of the spinal canal, and in turn excess pressure on spinal structures or nerves, may call for a corrective lumbar foraminotomy. The space on either side of your vertebrae through which the spinal nerves pass is known as your neural foramen. Unfortunately, conditions like spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis of the spine reduce the natural space inside the neural foramen. Additionally, developments like disc herniation and bone spurs can reduce the neural foramen and add pressure to spinal nerves. This pressure can cause bouts of numbness, weakness or shooting pain in your spine, arms and legs. Doctors will attempt to resolve these issues with non-surgical techniques, like physical therapy or chiropractic care, but if those methods fail, you’ll need a lumbar foraminotomy.

Foraminotomy Procedure

The procedure is rather straightforward for an experienced spinal surgeon. The patient is given general anesthesia while lying face down on their stomach. Once the patient is sedated, the surgeon makes a small incision in the lower spine over the affected area. The back muscles are either cut or carefully maneuvered so the surgeon can expose the lamina. The surgeon then removes a small portion of the lamina to access the neural foramen. Once inside the neural foramen, the surgeon removes disc fragments, bone spurs or overgrown ligaments to increase the space around the area. This increases the space in the neural foramen and decompresses the structures in the area. The surgeon then removes their tools, ensures the back muscles are put back in the normal position, and the surgical site is closed with sutures.

As with any procedure, there are some risks involved. The procedure is relatively safe, but some potential complications include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Leakage of spinal fluid

There’s also the possibility of further injury should you return to work or physical activity too quickly after surgery. Physical limitations are usually put in place for 2-4 weeks after surgery. To learn more about the procedure, contact a spinal surgeon today.

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