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A foraminotomy is spinal surgery to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve. It is most often done in the neck or lower back.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Anesthesia is medicine to make you comfortable during the surgery. Healthcare providers will work with you to decide which type of anesthesia is best for you:
    • General anesthesia is used to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Healthcare providers may give you anesthesia through your IV. You may breathe it in through a mask or through a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.
    • Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine placed in your skin where the surgery will be done. It is used to numb the area and helps prevent pain.
  • Antibiotics are given through your IV at the time of surgery to help prevent infection.

During your surgery:

  • An incision will be made over the area of your spine where your nerve is pinched. Your surgeon will remove tissue so he or she can see your vertebra (spinal bone) clearly. He or she may use a microscope or endoscope (tube with a light and camera on the end) to help see the bone. He or she will use a drill to remove the piece of bone that is pinching your nerve. He or she will also remove any pieces of ruptured disc that are blocking your nerve.
  • The surgical area will be rinsed with a liquid that contains antibiotics. Your surgeon will then close the tissues around the vertebra using stitches that dissolve. The skin incision will be closed using stitches or surgical glue and may be covered with a bandage.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you may be allowed to go home.

  • A brace or soft neck collar may be used to decrease your pain.
  • Activity including range of motion exercises and walking will be started shortly after your surgery. When you can walk, you will be able to go home. Most people are able to walk and go home the same day the surgery is done.
  • Medicines may be given to relieve pain or muscle spasms.


You may have pain, numbness, or muscle spasms after the surgery. You may have weakness in some muscles. You may bleed too much or get an infection. Spinal fluid may leak from your wound. This can cause a bad headache. You may get a blood clot in your arm or leg. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. During surgery an air bubble may enter your heart and cause problems with your heartbeat. This is very rare but may be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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