Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy

Posterior cervical foraminotomy is a minimally invasive surgery to enlarge the space where the nerve root exits the spinal cord, known as the neural foramen.

This procedure also may remove any part of the spinal disk pushing on the nerve. Sometimes a foraminotomy relieves symptoms without a discectomy (removing a disk). This speeds up recovery time because it's less invasive and does not require spinal fusion.

The procedure

This surgery is performed through a one-to two-inch incision in the back (posterior) of the neck, while you lay face-down under general anesthesia. In a fully minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon may use an even smaller incision and insert a thin tube (catheter) with a retractor that allows the surgeon to access the spine.

The foramen will be opened slightly to expose the nerve root. This procedure relieves pressure on the spinal nerve root by creating more room for the nerve root to pass through the foramen.

If a bone spur is narrowing the foramen and compressing the nerve root, the surgery can remove the spur and widen the passageway. If nerve compression is caused by material in the disk, the material will be carefully removed and the wound will be closed.


Posterior cervical foraminotomy is highly successful in relieving nerve compression pain in most patients with minimum bone removal.

Sometimes patients need post-operative physical therapy. Surgery complications are minimal, but may include:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Incomplete pain relief
  • Infection
  • Additional disk herniation
  • Damage to nerve root or spinal cord
  • Allergies to anesthesia
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