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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy

Posterior cervical foraminotomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to enlarge the space through which the nerve root exits from the spinal cord, known as the neural foramen.

This procedure also may remove any part of the spinal disc pushing on the nerve.

A foraminotomy may sometimes alleviate symptoms in patients without a discectomy being required, which speeds up recovery time for the patient, because it is less invasive, and does not require spinal fusion.

The Procedure

This surgery is performed through the back (posterior) of the neck. It relieves pressure on the spinal nerve root by creating more room for the nerve root to pass through the foramen.

In the case of bone spurs narrowing the foramen and compressing the nerve root, the surgery can remove the spur, widening the passageway.

Patients will lay face-down on the operating table, under general anesthesia, while the surgeon makes a one- to two-inch incision to access the foramen.

The foramen will be opened slightly to expose the nerve root. In cases of nerve compression because of material in the disc, the material will be carefully removed and the wound will be closed.

In a fully minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon may use an even smaller incision and insert a thin tube (catheter) that contains a retractor which will allow the surgeon to access the spine.


Posterior cervical foraminotomy is highly successful in bringing relief of pain from nerve compression in most patients with a minimum removal of bone.

Patients sometimes require post-operative physical therapy, but complications from the surgery are minimal, including:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Incomplete relief of paint
  • Infection
  • Additional disc herniation
  • Damage to nerve root or spinal cord
  • Allergies to anesthesia

Last UpdateJanuary 19, 2012