What Is Microforaminotomy?

Reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

Microforaminotomy is a type of minimally invasive spine surgery that helps relieve pressure on your spinal cord and/or nerve roots (also known as decompression). This decompression is achieved by expanding the space or opening—called a foramen—where your spinal nerve roots exit your spine.

Traditional open foraminotomies have been around a lot longer than microforaminotomies, but they usually involve more cutting of your back muscles and tissues and a much larger incision.
However, during microforaminotomy, surgeons use highly specialized instruments to make very small incisions to reduce damage to your back muscles. There are many benefits of this technique, but some of the most important are: a faster recovery, less risk of infection, and less post-operative pain.

When Is Microforaminotomy Used?
Several spine conditions can cause your foraminal space to narrow, including degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis , and spondylosis (spinal osteoarthritis). With less room to pass through, your spinal nerves can become pinched. Microforaminotomy is performed to relieve this pressure.

How Is Microforaminotomy Performed?
Microforaminotomies can be performed using one of the following techniques:

During this procedure, you'll be lying on your stomach. Typically, you'll also be given general anesthesia. Then, your surgeon will decompress the nerve and open up your foramen by removing bone, disc fragments, or any other material that's pressing on your spinal nerves.

This surgery usually takes about 2 hours to perform.

Microforaminotomy Risks
All surgeries have some risks, such as blood loss during the procedure and infection, but there are other possible complications associated with microforaminotomy:

Microforaminotomy Recovery
Most patients have pain relief after a microforaminotomy and can quickly return to their normal routines. However, talk to your doctor about how fast you can return to exercise or your other daily activities.

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