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Foraminectomy is a spinal surgery that releases pinched spinal nerves from foraminal stenosis. The neural foramen is the opening inside a vertebra where the nerve roots exit the spine. Most patients who have this type of surgery have some form of degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, and spondylosis or facet joint disease and have suffered with foraminal stenosis affecting their quality of life.

The surgery removes any bone, tissue or excess materials that are reducing space in the foraminal canal. Also called decompression surgery, the procedure is normally combined with a laminectomy, which is the removal of the lamina bone. By performing both of these procedures, the patient can get immediate relief from pain that often radiates down the legs, weakness or loss of motor function.

Learn what to expect from surgery

Patients are given general anesthesia. The surgery takes about one to two hours based on the complexity of the case. The surgeon makes a one- to three-inch incision in the region and then divides the skin, muscle and tissues to access the site. A small part of the vertebral bone is removed to reach the foraminal canal. Any debris pressing on the spinal nerves is removed. If the disc is herniated, a discectomy may be performed to ensure the nerve is no longer compressed. In some cases, a spinal fusion may be done to provide stability to the back.

Patients can expect to stay a couple of days in the hospital, especially if a discectomy and spinal fusion are done. While some patients have immediate pain relief, others may take a few days before their pain subsides. Recovery is two to six weeks, based on the procedures performed. Limit lifting based on the surgeon’s recommendations.