A lumbar foraminotomy is a surgical procedure performed to increase space where nerve roots exit the spine (the neural foramina). The surgery is recommended for patients experiencing pain, often experienced as weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations in the legs, due to pressure on adjacent nerves. Spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, and disc herniation are some of the conditions that can reduce the size of the neural foramina.
Performed under general anesthesia, a lumbar foraminotomy involves the removal of part of a vertebral arch in the spinal canal to access the affected area of the back. Any disc fragments or bone spurs that may be pressing on nerves are removed. One or more areas of the spine may be corrected during the procedure, depending on what was identified through image testing.
If the spine becomes unstable due to the procedure, spine fusion surgery may be necessary. The risk of spinal instability becomes greater if more than one area of the spine is affected. The procedure may also be combined with a discectomy or microdiscectomy if multiple sources of discomfort have been identified. Additional risks include:
• Infection or bleeding at the incision site • Unintentional nerve damage • Weakening of the spine experienced post-surgery
Patients with back pain or related leg pain must have tried conservative treatments, such as a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications and physical therapy, for about 6 to 8 weeks without success. In order to be a candidate for any type of spine surgery, a source of the pain must be clearly identifiable when image testing is performed. Ideal candidates for a foraminotomy are those who:
• Experience acute, sharp, or radiating pain • Have limited motor functions • Experience pain that’s becoming progressively worse • Have difficulty performing basic daily tasks
Barring a medical emergency, any type of spine surgery is a last resort. For patients not responding to other treatments, however, a lumbar foraminotomy is worth considering when surgery becomes a viable potential source of pain relief. Recovery from the procedure, which is considered minimally invasive, typically takes about a month.
To learn more about foraminotomy surgery or other options for long-term pain relief, find a dedicated and experienced Los Angeles spine surgeon by calling (310) 828-7757. The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration is a leader in cutting-edge spine procedures, helping patients rediscover a pain-free life.