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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.


The week before your surgery:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • You may need an MRI or CT scan of your spine before your surgery. You may also need x-rays, a myelogram, or tests to check your nerves and muscles. Talk to your healthcare provider about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.

The night before your surgery:

Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • Ask your caregiver before you take any medicine on the day of your surgery. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital. Caregivers will check that your medicines will not interact poorly with the medicine you need for surgery.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • An incision will be made over the area of your spine where your nerve is pinched. Your surgeon will remove tissue so he can see your vertebra (spinal bone) clearly. He may use a microscope or endoscope (tube with a light and camera on the end) to help see the bone. He will use a drill to remove the piece of bone that is pinching your nerve. He will also remove any pieces of ruptured disc (gel-like material in between your vertebrae) 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 will be allowed to go home. If you need to stay overnight, you will be taken to your hospital room.


  • You cannot make it to your surgery.
  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cold or the flu.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • The problems for which you are having the surgery get worse.


  • 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.
  • If you do not have surgery, the pressure on your spinal nerve may get worse. This can cause constant pain. It may also cause numbness and muscle weakness in your arms or legs. You may have difficulty walking or doing your normal activities.

Care Agreement

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 caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.