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Lumbar Foraminotomy

The spine is surrounded and protected by vertebral bones stacked one on top of the other. Between adjacent vertebrae are spaces called neural foramen through which spinal nerves pass to communicate with the rest of the body. Conditions such as a herniated intervertebral disc or bony overgrowth may cause compression of the spinal nerves as they pass through the neural foramen. In the lower back or lumbar region, this can result in lower back pain as well as pain, weakness and numbness in the legs. A lumbar foraminotomy is a surgical procedure to decompress the spinal nerves by removing bone and other tissues that obstruct the neural foramen.

For the procedure you will lie face down and the site of surgery is identified by X-ray imaging. An incision is made in the skin and tissues separated and retracted to expose the affected area. Special instruments are used to remove bone spurs, thickened ligaments and all or part of the disc causing nerve compression. A microscope is used to verify whether decompression of the spinal nerves is complete. The instruments are then removed and the incision closed.

You are usually discharged on the same day of surgery and may experience relief immediately after surgery. In case of pain, your doctor will prescribe medication. You will receive advice on wound care and activity limitation.

As with any invasive procedure, lumbar foraminotomy may be associated with certain complications such as infection, bleeding, nerve damage and leakage of spinal fluid.

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Dr. Josue P. Gabriel frequently gives lectures for the benefit of furthering scientific research and medical education.