A foraminotomy is a surgical procedure done to relieve the symptoms of a pinched/copmpressed nerve by enlarging the neural foramen.  The neural foramen is an opening where nerve roots exit the spine and travel throughout the body. It creates a protective passageway for nerves that carry signals between the spinal cord and the rest of the body. A foraminotomy is a surgical procedure that is done to enlarge that passageway.  The term foraminectomy is sometimes used if during the foraminotomy a large amount of bone or other material is removed.

Often this procedure can be performed in a minimally invasive way, however your neurosurgeon will discuss the best options for your particular situation.


A pinched nerve in the neck can cause

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Pain radiating into the shoulder, arm, and hand
  • Numbness, tingling and/or weakness in the arm and hand.


  • Herniated discs
  • Bone spurs and thickened ligaments or joints


Patients who do not improve with conservative treatment may be candidates for surgery.

  • Patient lies on their stomach
  • A small incision is made on the symptomatic side of the neck or back
  • The muscles are gradually dilated and a tubular retractor is placed to give the surgeon access to the spine.
  • Bone or disc material and/or thickened ligaments are then removed to decompress and relieve pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves.
  • The tubular retractor is removed, allowing the dilated muscles to come back together.
  • The incision is closed, and in most instances results in only a small scar.

Please note that above describes the procedure when performed minimally invasively but not everyone is a candidate.  Your surgeon will discuss if this is the best option for your particular situation.

Content adapted from Medtronic Catalyst patient education

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