What is a Foraminotomy?
In the spine, you have foramen, also called neuroforamen, on both sides of each vertebra (the bones that make up your spine). The spinal nerves pass through these openings, traveling from the spinal cord and out to the various parts of your body. These specialized gaps in the spinal joints where your nerves enter and exit the spinal canal is called foramina. A foraminotomy re-opens the foramina when they have been narrowed by an overgrowth of bone.
Since the spinal nerves have to pass through the foramen, if it becomes too small, the nerves can be pinched (a doctor would say compressed). Pinched or compressed nerves can cause a lot of pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Pinched nerves can even cause pain in other parts of the body. For example, some spinal nerves in your low back travel down your legs. If one of them is being pinched as it goes through the foramen, it can transmit pain signals down your legs. In performing the foraminotomy, the surgeon will remove the bone that is pressing on the nerve in the foramen. He will use special surgical tools, such as a drill or cutting instruments, to decompress the nerve where it is pinched.