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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:

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all your allergies, including allergies to medicine, anesthesia, or contrast liquid.
  • 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.

The night before your surgery:

You may be told not to eat or drink anything after midnight.

The day of your surgery:

  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers 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.
  • Take only the medicines your surgeon told you to take.
  • Healthcare providers 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 healthcare providers 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 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.


  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cold or the flu.


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.

Care Agreement

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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.

Further information

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