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Medial Facetectomy

Medial Facetectomy removes one or both facet joints on a vertebra. The facet joints help support the weight and control movement between individual vertebra of the spine. Each vertebra connects to the one above and below it through facet joints. There are two facets for one the left and right sides of the vertebra. The spine is able to move through these joints. When they become stiff and swollen, patients can have debilitating pain and decreased mobility. Typically, this occurs due to compression – from overuse, high-impact exercise, disc compression, arthritis and injury. When conservative therapies, such as medication, ice, rest and physical therapy are no longer effective, patients can opt for removal of the facet joints.

Learn what to expect from surgery

This surgery is done under general anesthesia and normally takes about one to two hours. First, the surgeon makes a one- to two-inch incision at the surgical site. The spine is exposed by moving the muscles aside. A laminotomy is done to reach the facet joints. Based on the symptoms and area that is compressed, one or both of the facet joints may be removed. Any herniation in the disc may be repaired or other procedures may be completed so that the nerve roots in the spine are relaxed. When the nerves are relaxed, the patient will get relief from the pain and regain mobility.

Following surgery, patients may spend one or two nights in the hospital to recover. At first, the affected leg may have some numbness and slight pain and even some spasms, which can be controlled with medication. This usually resolves in one to two weeks after surgery. Avoid bending, lifting or twisting for four to six weeks. If patients are in a low-impact job, they may return to work in two weeks. Those in strenuous jobs may return to work after six or more weeks.