Nerve roots exit your spinal canal via spaces called ‘intervertebral foramina’. In some people, bone spurs, disc fragments, scar tissue or excessive ligament tissue occur in the spinal column and exert pressure on the nerves within. The result is a compressed nerve which can cause pain, tingling and weakness in the extremities. Patients with spinal nerve compression often experience persistent discomfort which can be debilitating, limiting movement and hindering performance of everyday activities. The type and intensity of the symptoms experienced depends on the amount and location of compression within the spine. For example, if the affected nerve is located in the lumbar region of the spine, you would most likely have symptoms in the lower back, buttocks and legs, whereas a compressed nerve located in the cervical (upper) spine, will result in neck, shoulders and arm pain. The exact cause of nerve compression varies from person to person but includes spinal arthritis, foraminal stenosis, bone spurs and bulging or herniated discs.
Although more conservative treatments (e.g. anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and steroid injections) can provide benefit for some, others continue to suffer from symptoms despite such interventions. It is important for these patients to know that not all treatment options have been exhausted, and that an endoscopic foraminotomy could provide the solution they need.
During an endoscopic foraminotomy, the obstruction responsible for the narrowed spinal canal is removed to make more space for the nerves. The immediate release of pressure often provides rapid pain relief for patients, affording them the freedom to continue doing all the activities they enjoyed before. The overall goal of a foraminotomy is to remove as little tissue as possible in order to retain the structure and strength of the spine while still enabling patients to regain lost function.
The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic and IV sedation. To gain access to the affected area of the spine, a small incision is made and a thin tube is passed into the intervertebral foramen. The surgeon operates through this tube using an endoscope to aid magnification. Most patients can return home the same day.
For patients experiencing severe and limiting back, shoulder, arm or leg pain caused by compressed nerves, an endoscopic foraminotomy could provide the answer. For more information, fill out our Getting Started form and someone from Advanced Spine Surgery Center will be in touch with you.