What is it?

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."

First, a small incision is made in the middle of the back of neck after localizing the area of interest with an x-ray.

Then, 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.


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.

As you read this, please keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary. Complications, such as infection, blood loss, and bowel or bladder problems are some of the potential adverse risks of spinal surgery. Please consult your physician for a complete list of indications, warnings, precautions, adverse events, clinical results, and other important medical information.

The materials on this Web site are for your general educational information only. Information you read on this Web site cannot replace the relationship that you have with your health care professional. We do not practice medicine or provide medical services or advice as a part of this Web site. You should always talk to your health care professional for diagnosis and treatment.


Published: April 11, 2007
Updated: February 11, 2015