Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

What is a keyhole foraminotomy? My father says that's the type of surgery he's having for his neck and arm pain. I've never heard of it.

Answer:

Foraminotomy is a procedure used to relieve pressure on nerves that are being compressed or pinched by the intervertebral foramina. The foramen is an oval or round opening in the vertebral bone. The spinal nerves go through this hole on their way from the spinal cord to the muscles of the arms and legs.

Anytime the name of an operation ends with otomy, it refers to the removal of something. In this case, the surgeon removes any disc material that may be pressing on the nerve. The opening in the bone may also be enlarged by shaving or cutting away bone around the nerve.

The procedure can be done from the back of the neck. A tiny incision is made. The small incision makes this a minimally invasive surgery (MIS). The muscle is then peeled away so that the surgeon can see the bone underneath. A small hole is cut into the vertebra itself. The foramen can be seen through this hole. The bone or disc material that is pressing on the nerve can be removed.

The operation is usually very successful. Long-term studies report good-to-excellent results for up to 96 per cent of the patients. Your father can expect pain relief and return to normal activity and work status. Michelle J. Clarke, MD, et al. Same-Segment and Adjacent-Segment Disease Following Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. Vol. 6. No. 1. Pp. 5-9.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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