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The cervical spine (or neck) is made up of seven vertebrae separated by soft pads or discs (commonly spelled as “disks”). The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other to form a column with a central canal, which houses the spinal cord. In the cervical spine alone, there are eight pairs of nerve roots, which exit from both sides of the spinal cord through boney passages called foramen. The soft pads between the vertebrae are made of a jelly-like center (the nucleus pulposus) and a tough surrounding wall (the annulus).
Sometimes these discs can weaken, bulge, or the jelly-like center can rupture through the surrounding wall. This rupture is often referred to as a cervical disc herniation. Any of these scenarios can cause pinching or compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots. Posterior cervical foraminotomy is a minimally invasive spine surgery aimed at relieving nerve root compression by creating more room for the nerve root to pass through the foramen. This procedure is different from artificial cervical disc replacement and cervical discectomy and fusion in that it preserves the cervical disc and does not replace it with a bone graft or implant.
A posterior cervical foraminotomy is performed on the back of the neck through a small, one to two inch, incision of the operation done throughout with a surgical microscope. Special surgical instruments are used to separate and move soft tissues to the side so that the spinal surgeon has easy access to the problematic cervical disc. Microinstruments are used to carefully remove a small amount of the outer wall of the foramen.
Once the foramen is opened, the nerve root can be seen. The hole out of which the nerve passes is enlarged, so that the nerve can decompress. In some cases, the nerve root may be lifted and a piece of the ruptured disc may be removed to also alleviate compression. The incision on the back of the neck is then closed with dissolvable sutures (stitches) or sutures that will be removed after the incision has healed.
For more information about the Microsurgical Posterior Cervical procedure we perfom for patients in the Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, CA area, please contact us at 855-SOMA-844 (855-766-2844).