A cervical laminoforaminotomy is a minimally invasive spinal surgery performed to alleviate pressure on a nerve root in the neck that is being compressed or “pinched” or otherwise irritated. This condition is called cervical radiculopathy. Although the problem in cervical radiculopathy originates in a nerve root found in the neck region of the spine, people with this condition typically experience pain that runs down their arm and into their hands.
In most cases, a herniated disc in the neck or bone spurs from arthritis cause pressure on the nerve. When the source of the pressure is relieved, pain is reduced or even eliminated. This surgery can be less invasive alternative to traditional anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or posterior cervical laminectomy.
How is Cervical Laminoforaminotomy Performed?
A very small incision is made at the back of the neck, and the surgeon removes the herniated disc or other source of pressure on the nerve(s). The surgery typically lasts an hour.
What to Expect from Cervical Laminoforaminotomy
Before your procedure, your physician will explain the procedure and answer your questions. You will have X-rays and possibly some tests done before surgery. Blood loss is minimal in this type of procedure, so you will not be asked to donate your blood prior to the procedure.
This procedure is sometimes done on an outpatient basis, but may require an overnight stay in the hospital. Your doctor will explain how anesthesia will be handled. After the procedure, you will be given medication to help manage pain.
After the Procedure
A cervical laminoforaminotomy is performed to relieve the pain associated with cervical radiculopathy. Some people may find that after the procedure, the pain is only modestly relieved. This occurs most frequently in cases where the nerve damage was severe or the nerve had been damaged for a long time. As the nerve heals, pain should continue to diminish. Tingling, “pins and needles” and warmth may occur as the nerve heals. As the body heals, strength in the arms and hands will return. The last symptom to resolve is usually numbness in the hand.
The University Spine Center will discuss your recovery and rehabilitation with you. Patients with the most successful recoveries are usually those who are most serious about rehabilitation. A walking program is often part of spinal rehabilitation. In fact, patients are often encouraged to start walking shortly after surgery and to ramp up efforts as they heal from surgery. Other rehabilitative exercises may be suggested.
Exercise is not only good for your health, it can specifically target areas of the body that have been weakened by long-term problems such as cervical radiculopathy. It is possible that you have weakened arm, neck, shoulder, and hand muscles from your pain. These can be addressed in a rehabilitation program.
Benefits and Risks
While cervical laminoforaminotomy is an established procedure and has a high success rate at relieving arm pain, all surgeries carry with them some degree of risk. As with any spinal surgery, there is a risk of spinal cord or nerve root injury, and a risk of infection. There are other potential complications as well. The University Spine Center will discuss the risks and benefits of surgery with you.